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Berlin film festival to spotlight pandemic-era movies

BERLIN (AFP):  Berlin’s international film festival next month will feature 15 movies made under the pandemic in competition for its Golden Bear top prize, organisers said Thursday.

Directors including Emmy winner Maria Schrader (“Unorthodox”), German-Spanish actor Daniel Bruehl (“Rush”) and French director Celine Sciamma (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”) will be premiering new work at the event, which will take place online because of Germany’s partial lockdown.

The Berlinale’s artistic director, Carlo Chatrian, said all contenders for the top prizes at the March 1-5 event were “films that either in their production or their post-production process have endured the pandemic”.

“If only a few of them show directly the new world we are living in, all of them carry beneath their surfaces the uncertain times we are experiencing,” he said in a video presenting the lineup. “A sense of apprehension is everywhere.”

Schrader will unveil “I’m Your Man”, a sci-fi comedy about a woman played by Sandra Hueller (“Toni Erdmann”) finding a custom-made Mr Right. 

Bruehl, who came to international attention with the bittersweet comedy “Good Bye, Lenin” and is now part of the Captain America franchise, will make his directorial debut with “Next Door” about gentrification in Berlin. Sciamma, who scooped the best screenplay award in Cannes with her critical smash hit “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, has completed “Petite Maman” starring two young girls.

TWO-PART FESTIVAL

One of Romania’s top filmmakers, Radu Jude, who won the Berlinale’s Silver Bear in 2015 for “Aferim!” about the origins of prejudice against the Roma, is back with “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” about a teacher whose sex tape winds up on the internet.

Lebanese directors Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige will screen “Memory Box” about an immigrant mother in Montreal facing flashbacks of her country’s civil war. 

“Albatross” by France’s Xavier Beauvois (“Of Gods and Men”) tells of the trials of a police officer in a northern village. Festival circuit favourite Hong Sang-soo of South Korea will show “Introduction” featuring his frequent muse Kim Min-hee, who clinched best actress in Berlin in 2017.

Other titles include “A Cop Movie”, a Mexican documentary by Alonso Ruizpalacios, Iranian death penalty drama “Ballad of a White Cow” by Behtash Sanaeeha and Maryam Moghaddam and Denes Nagy’s Hungarian World War II feature “Natural Light”.

The Berlinale, now in its 71st edition, is the first major European cinema showcase of the year and ranks with Cannes and Venice among the continent’s top film festivals.

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, it is scheduled to take place in two parts this year, one in March for industry professionals and one in June with screenings for general audiences.

The jury will be made up of six previous Golden Bear winners including last year’s laureate, dissident Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, who claimed the prize for “There Is No Evil” about capital punishment in his country.

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