Berlinale 2003 Tip Sheet: A Dozen New Films to Keep an Eye On
by Eugene Hernandez
As a sidebar to indieWIRE's Berlinale 2003 wrap-up from Stephen Garrett, here's a list of one dozen films (in alphabetical order) that people were talking about in Berlin this year. These 12 films are just some of the movies from the various sections of the Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin that hit the radar of buyers, festival programmers, and audiences. Think of this as more of a cheat sheet to fuel cocktail party chatter than a critical look at this subjective list of films.
"Comandante," directed by Oliver Stone. The fact that Castro wears Nike sneakers is an early revelation in Oliver Stone's Panorama section documentary. The tidbit, revealed in a quick shot of the Cuban leader's feet, is one of many insightful items included in this revealing documentary. Shot over the course of a few days that Stone spent with Castro in Cuba, the doc also offers more substantial insights, including Castro's take on the assassination of JFK. The film, which had a premiere at Sundance last month, will air on HBO.
"Good Bye, Lenin," directed by Wolfgang Becker. A high-profile German competition entry, the X Filme production opened theatrically in Germany on the final weekend of the Berlinale. Set during the time of the fall of the wall, this comedy offers a unique take on a crucial moment in German history that still resonates greatly with locals. A U.S. distribution deal seems likely.
"In This World," directed by Michael Winterbottom. Winner of the Golden Bear, the Berlinale's top jury award, this competition entry is still without distribution in the United States. That will no doubt change soon. Winterbottom's latest looks at the life of two Afghan refugees living on the Pakistani border after the bombing of Afghanistan in October of 2001.
"Infernal Affairs," directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak. This International Forum section film was no doubt one of the highest profile new films going into the festival. A huge hit in Hong Kong, the thriller's remake rights were nabbed in Hollywood on the eve of the Berlinale. Good buzz in Berlin abounded and the film is set for a U.S. premiere at New York's New Director's/New Films. A theatrical release of the film in the States remains unclear following Warner Bros. and Brad Pitt's announcement that they plan to remake the picture.
"Jonny Vang," directed by Jens Lee. This Panorama film from Norwegian director Lien flew just below the radar at the Berlinale, but not without securing high praise from a number of those who caught the film at the festival. The story of a small-town trio, the film was hailed by one festival programmer as a Berlinale favorite. U.S. distribution remains unclear.
"Knafayim Shvurot" (Broken Wings), directed by Nir Bergman. Sony Pictures Classics announced a deal for this powerful Israeli film during the first weekend of the fest. Audiences were moved by the story of a middle-class Israeli family and gave the movie the Panorama section's audience award. A personal favorite in Berlin, the film is anchored by the stellar performance of young lead Maya Maron, who portrays a girl coming of age in a family that is dealing with tragedy.
"Noi Albinoi," directed by Dagur Kari. An Icelandic film set on a remote fjord in the country's Northern region, "Noi Albinoi" is a winner that wasn't even in the festival. The film, which screened in the International Film Festival Rotterdam, was the buzz of Berlin's European Film Market where it was quickly nabbed by Palm Pictures. Tomas Lemarquis shines as the troubled lanky teenager who hopes to escape his village with the local girl of his dreams. Watch for this one on the domestic festival circuit ahead of its release theatrically in the States.
"Salt," directed by Bradley Rust Gray. Another Icelandic entry, "Salt" was one of the buzz films of the Forum section. Described as the "simple story (of) a girl who falls in love with her sister's boyfriend," the film was singled out by a number of discerning Berlinale attendees. Prospects for U.S. festival play or distribution are unclear at this stage.
"The Gift," directed by Louise Hogarth. This shocking Panorama section documentary had festivalgoers buzzing about its provocative subject-matter. It looks at a community of "bug-chasers," gay men who willfully try to contract HIV. It will no doubt have a life on the festival circuit and stir discussion and debate wherever it screens.
"Wilbur Begar Selvmord" (Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself), directed by Lone Scherfig. The latest film from the director of "Italian for Beginners," his film from the acclaimed Danish filmmaker left some wondering why it was shown in the festival's special screenings section, rather than in competition. The story of a depressed man who wants to kill himself, until he begins to develop feelings for a woman who works in a bookstore, will have a festival life in the U.S., while distribution prospects are still unclear.
"Ying Xiong" (Hero), directed by Zhang Yimou. A competition film that wowed many in Berlin, "Hero" is a cinemascope spectacle that some have seen as similar to Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The martial arts epic, set in China, features such stars as Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, and Zhang Ziyi. Miramax will release it in the United States this year.
"Yossi & Jagger," directed by Eytan Fox. A box-office hit in Israel, Fox's look at a love affair within the Israeli Army has a hook: the two amorous soldiers are male. Play on the queer festival circuit seems a given for this film, but don't rule out screens at mainstream "straight" festivals as well. Strand closed a deal for the picture during the Berlinale and will release it this year.