By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire February 11, 2010 at 6:44AM
A mix of difficult films and little gems was how someone described the Berlin International Film Festival earlier today during a gathering of the festival jury at Potsdamer Platz as the festival got off the ground this afternoon. Arty films, issue oriented and politically charged cinema, not to mention a healthy dose of queer themed movies, comprise the three highest profile Berlinale sections: the Competition, Panorama and Forum.
Scouring the roster over the past few weeks, some twenty of the festival's new films emerged as must sees on an internal list here at indieWIRE (this list does not include titles that have already debuted at other festivals). Each one, for reasons detailed below, piqued considerable interest.
While the festival celebrates its 60th Anniversary with opening festivities today, the event kicks into high gear on Friday when regular screenings begin, continuing through next weekend in the snowy German capital.
Here's a tip of sheet of films on indieWIRE's must watch list here in Berlin (in alphabetical order):
"Amphetamine," directed by Scud
Hong Kong filmmaker Scud ("Permanent Residence") is noted, by the Berlinale, as having "dedicated his film about sex, drugs and true love to all those who live to love - but who only end up losing the love of their lives." If that's not intriguing enough, this second in a trilogy by Scud (aka Danny Cheng Wan Cheung) again looks at a straight - gay relationship between two men.
"Arias With a Twist: The Docufantasty," directed by Bobby Sheehan
Drag and puppets, behind the scenes! Joey Arias, drag performer and performance artist joins forces with acclaimed puppeteer Basil Twist for their project, "Arias with a Twist." This doc takes a look at their work together and apparently includes original performance footage. A "Docufantasty"? Curious.
"Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Warhol Superstar," directed by James Rasin
A transsexual performer who inspired everyone from Lou Reed to Robert Mappelthorpe is voiced by Chloe Sevigny in this new doc. Last night at dinner here in Berlin, someone quipped that there's a film with a link to Warhol every year at the Berlinale. That's just fine.
"Ghost Writer," directed by Roman Polanski (film page)
Ewan McGregor, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, and Pierce Brosnan star in Roman Polanski's latest thriller. Given the filmmaker's troubles over the past year, this film is already a must-see.
"Greenberg," directed by Noah Baumbach (film page)
Inside word from some who've seen Noah Baumbach's latest is that it's dark. Ben Stiller's performance will apparently surprise viewers. Worth noting is that the movie marks the mainsteam movie debut of Greta Gerwig, who's made her name as a maven of Mumblecore movies. Expect it to have people talking during the fest's first weekend.
"The Illusionist," directed by Sylvain Chomet
A new animated film based on a script by Jacques Tati and directed by the filmmaker who made "The Triplets of Belleville. No further tease required.
"I Shot My Love," directed by Tomer Heymann
From the director of "Paper Dolls," a hit here at the Berlinale in 2006 -- seventy years after his grandfather left Nazi Germany for Israel -- is a new documentary that looks at the Israeli filmmaker's love for German dancer and choreographer Andreas Merk, whom he met in a Berlin club.
"L'arbre et la foret" (Family Tree), directed by Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau
French filmmaking duo Ducastel and Martineau ("My Life on Ice," "The Adventures of Felix") were popular here in Berlin a few years ago with "Crustacés et coquillages" (later titled, "Cote d'Azur" in the U.S.). Their latest is the story of a father confronting his homosexuality and life in a concentration camp during the German Nazi occupation of France.
"Mammuth," directed by Benoit Delepine (film page)
Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Adjani in a story of a retiring worker revisiting his youth. An insider says that this French film is hilarious, with Depardieu at the top of his game. Looking forward to it.
"Metropolis," directed by Fritz Lang
The restoration of Fritz Lang’s original version of "Metropolis" will be presented tomorrow night, outdoor on a giant screen at Berlin's legendary Brandenberg Gate. Enough said.
"Na Patu" (On the Path), directed by Jasmila Zbanic (film page)
Zbanic's sophomore effort has been anticipated. From the winner of the Golden Bear here at the Berlinale four years ago for "Grbavica" comes the story of a strained relationship.
"Nenette," directed by Nicolas Philibert
Acclaimed French documentary filmmaker Philibert ("Être et avoir") has made his latest film about a forty year old Parisian orangutan. Should be something to observe.
"Plein Sud" (Going South), directed by Sebastien Lifshitz
Filmmaker Lifshitz ("Presque rien"), an instructor at France's La Femis film school in Paris, won the Gay Teddy Award here in Berlin back in '04 for "Wild Side". His latest film is road movie set in the South of France.
"Putty Hill," directed by Matt Porterfield
A follow-up to his "Hamilton, US," Porterfield's "Putty Hill" was originally conceived as a traditional narrative film but evolved into a fact/fiction hybrid featuring young, marginalized metal head locals in Baltimore, MD. After debuting here in Berlin, the film will have its U.S. premiere at SXSW in Austin next month.
"Revolucion," directed by Pablo Cruz, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Fernando Eimbcke, Amat Escalante, Mariana Chenillo, Rodrigo Garcia, Gerardo Naranjo, Rodrigo Pla, Carlos Reygadas, Patricia Riggen
Ten shorts films, from an accomplished array of Mexican and Latin American directors, mark the one hundred year anniversary of the Mexican Revolution.
"San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi" (A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop), directed by Zhang Yimou (film page)
A legendary Chinese filmmaker remaking The Coen Brothers' "Blood Simple"? Yup. And, it's set in a Mainland desert noodle shop.
"Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll," directed by Mat Whitecross
Frequent Michael Winterbottom collaborator Whitecross ventures out on his own to examine British musician Ian Dury in a new film starring Andy Serkis (who was recently nominated for a BAFTA for his portrayal of the New Wave rocker).
"Shutter Island," directed by Martin Scorsese (film page)
A new Scorsese film is always a must see. Featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Emily Mortimer, "Shutter Island" is based on a Dennis Lehane novel. According to fest notes, Scorsese signed on immediately after reading the script because it reminded him of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." Intriguing.
"Submarino," directed by Thomas Vinterberg (film page)
In the wake of his acclaimed "Celebration" (Festen) back in the 90s, Danish filmmaker Vinterberg's subsequent efforst stirred interest (and often disappointment). He's back with a story of two brothers, based on a book by a Danish novelist.
"Welt am Draht" (World On A Wire), directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
A 1970s sci-fi TV series, in two parts, by Fassbinder. Unreleased since it aired on German television in 1973, it has never before been seen on a big screen and will debut this weekend in a restored theatrical version. Exciting.
A guide to the Berlin International Film Festival Competition section is available here at indieWIRE. Get the latest from the 60th Berlinale daily through the end of the festival and anytime via iW's Twitter feed.