The 62nd Berlin International Film Festival kicks off tomorrow, offering dozens (and dozens) of world premieres across mutliple sections. By the time the festival’s Golden and Silver Bears are handed out next weekend, we’ll have a good idea as to the world cinema that will come to theaters near you (eventually, that is — some of last year’s program is just coming out Stateside now).
In the past few years, the festival has proven itself — perhaps more than it has in some time — as an excellent platform for emerging and proven talent in world cinema to debut their work. Last year’s crop ended up gaining more Oscar nominations than the 2011 Sundance Film Festival’s slate.
Among them were Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation,” Wim Wenders’ “Pina” and Michael R. Roskham’s “Bullhead,” as well as Bela Tarr’s “The Turin Horse,” Ulrich Kohler’s “Sleeping Sickness,” Ralph Fiennes’ “Coriolanus,” and Celine Sciamma’s “Tomboy.” Not bad for a festival that many felt had found itself in a threatening slump a few years prior.
So what’s likely to follow in those films’ collective footsteps this year? Hard to say. Berlin has become a festival of unexpected discovery. Few would have ever foreseen going into last year’s event that “A Separation” would end up a double Oscar nominee. Nonetheless, as we board our flights, here’s 10 of our best bets.
Barbara (Christian Petzold, Germany)
Considered one of the leading directors of the Berlin School movement, Christian Petzold (“The State I Am In,” “Yella”) returns to the Berlinale with “Barbara.” Set in the GRD in 1980, the film follows a doctor (Petzold regular Nina Hoss) trying to emigrate to West Germany.
Bel Ami (Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod, UK)
Not to the be confused with the brand of Eastern European gay porn, “Bel Ami” instead stars Robert Pattinson in another attempt to move beyond his “Twilight” fame. The period film adapted from the book by Guy de Maupassant follows a young man’s rise to power in Paris via his manipulation of the city’s most powerful women (Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci). Perhaps the most star-studded offering at the fest, it could be (campy?) fun.
Captured (Brillante Mendoza, France/Philippines/Germany/UK)
Probably on top of most folks “to-see” lists at the festival, Filipino director Brillante Mendoza follows up the highly divisive “Kinatay” with this thriller about a dozen foreigners who are kidnapped by a terrorist group in the Philippines. It stars none other than Isabelle Huppert, always a reason in itself to get excited.
Caesar Must Die (Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, Italy)
Palme d’Or winning (back in 1977 for “Padre padrone) Italian brothers Paolo & Vittorio Taviani enter their sixth decade of filmmaking with “Caesar Must Die.” A documentary, the film follows a production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” put on by none other than the inmates of Roman maximum security prison Rebibbia.
Cherry (Stephen Elliot, USA)
The directorial debut of Stephen Elliot, “Cherry” is debuting in the festival’s Panaorama section. It follows an 18 year old girl (Ashley Hinshaw) who drifts into the San Francisco porn industry using the moniker Cherry. The film’s main appeal is its supporting cast, which includes James Franco, Heather Graham, Dev Patel and Lili Taylor.
Death Row (Werner Herzog, USA)
A sort of expansion/companion piece to “Into The Abyss,” this whopping 188 minute doc (intended as a four-part television series) finds Werner Herzog offering portraits of five different people on death row in Texas. While ambitiously time-consuming for festival goers, anything Herzog does is worthy of “must-see” status
Farewell My Queen (Benoit Jacquot, France/Spain)
Opening the Berlinale isn’t exactly a good luck charm (anyone remember Wang Quan’an’s “Apart Together”? Didn’t think so), but Benoit Jacquot’s follow up to 2010’s “Deep in the Woods” could be an exception to the rule. Set in Versailles in 1789, the costume drama stars the tirelessly international Diane Kruger as none other than Marie Antoinette.
Jayne Mansfield’s Car (Billy Bob Thornton, USA)
Billy Bob Thornton is premiering his first feature directorial offering in 11 years at the Berlinale, oddly at the same event his ex-wife Angelina Jolie is offering the European debut of her directorial effort “In The Land of Blood and Honey.” Thornton’s film features an impressive cast in Kevin Bacon, Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Frances O’Connor and Thornton himself, and follows two 1960s-era families whose cultures clash.
Marley (Kevin Macdonald, UK/USA)
Recently picked up for American release by Magnolia Pictures, “One Day in September” and “The Last King of Scotland” director Kevin Macdonald’s “Marley” offers the first-ever family authorized doc on the life of legendary reggae musician Bob Marley. Not heading to the Berlinale? Its also set to screen at SXSW next month.
Sister (Ursala Meier, Switzerland/France)
Ursala Meier assembles an international cast in Lea Seydoux, Martin Compston and Gillian Anderson for “Sister,” a film set in a luxury ski restort in Switzerland. It follows her acclaimed 2008 directorial debut “Home” (which premiered in Cannes), and may or may not continue to show the potential of an emerging voice in world cinema.
Indiewire will be offering full coverage from the 61st Berlin International Film Festival beginning tomorrow.