Berlinale 2018 Festival Report
The general consensus about the ten-day 68th Berlin International Film Festival was that the real highlights were not necessarily the more prominent films that stood out at first glance. Instead, the true gems were to be found not just among the more prominent titles in the Competition section, but also in the more art-house inclined Panorama section and the more experimental Forum section. This was certainly my experience as I dashed between Berlin’s gorgeous cinemas in below zero temperatures, while munching down currywurst and trying to battle jetlag.
Isle of Dogs
While big name auteur directors such as Wes Anderson with Isle of Dogs and Gus Van Sant with Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot exceeded expectations by both making films that are among the best in their respective careers, my biggest highlight was from Swiss director Ursula Meier, whose previous films have been screened at MIFF (Home in 2009, Sister in 2012 and various shorts). Her new film Diary of My Mind is one of four segments from the Swiss telemovie series Shock Waves, where filmmakers were asked to make a film based on a disturbing news stories that stayed with them. Diary of My Mind stars Fanny Ardent as a French teacher who is lead to think she is indirectly responsible for one of her students murdering his parents. It is a complex film about guilt, responsibility, culpability and looking for someone to blame, but with no easy answers.
Diary of My Mind
It wasn’t all intense and confronting, as another personal highlight was the Paraguay character-drama The Heiresses about a reclusive middle-aged woman getting a new lease on life after her partner is sent to prison for fraud; an unexpectedly sweet and uplifting film with a terrific lead performance. At the other end of the spectrum of cinematic pleasures was The Green Fog, the new film by MIFF-favourites Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson where Vertigo is remade by cutting together scenes from other San-Francisco set films and television shows. If you want to see a sad Chuck Norris from a forgotten 1980s action film substituting for James Stewart during a scene of intense emotional anguish, then this is the film for you.
If there were any reoccurring themes that stood out for me it would be social satires where filmmakers make vicious statements about their home countries. The Polish film Mug certainly does not hold back with its dark comedic observations about bigotry and stupidity in the rural community where the film is set, and there were many big laughs from the audience during the screening I attended. And the crowd-favourite Pig, from Iran, had audiences cheering and applauding the more audacious moments during its tale of a serial killer who is going after famous Iranian filmmakers, much to the annoyance of a blacklisted director who is all bitter and jealous since he hasn't been targeted yet.
It was my last day at the festival that I saw two of my favourite films, which was a wonderful validation of both the Berlinale as an important event in the festival calendar and MIFF’s commitment to attending it in order to source the very best films from around the world for Melbourne audiences. Yours in Sisterhood was one of those films, a documentary project from the USA where women were asked to read letters sent to 1970s feminist magazine Ms. and then comment on them. The results are fascinating, at times sobering and fiercely relevant to some of the discourse around issues of inclusivity being held today. And finally, there was the big-screen majesty of Àga, depicting the lives of an elderly Yakut couple living off the snow and ice, enjoying a way of life that is likely to disappear with their generation. The final shot of this film – and the final thing I saw on screen in Berlin – is still haunting me.
- Film Festivals
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