Lone Scherfig’s “The Kindness of Strangers” will open the 2019 Berlin Film Festival. It’s a familiar venue for the veteran filmmaker, who brought her eventual Oscar-nominated “An Education” to the Berlinale back in 2009.
Her most recent work stars Zoe Kazan and Tahar Rahim as two New Yorkers who help each other through a trying time against the backdrop of a Russian restaurant. The film’s ensemble also includes Andrea Riseborough, Bill Nighy, Jay Baruchel, and Caleb Landry Jones.
The film is Scherfig’s first in three years, after the Gemma Arterton-led WWII movie “Their Finest.” That film did not end up making a Berlin stop, but Scherfig had other titles play the festival, even before “An Education.” Her first feature “The Birthday Club” played as part of the 1990 festival, while her Maeve Binchy adaptation “Italian for Beginners” took home a Silver Bear jury prize a decade later.
It will be a busy start to the year for Kazan, who’ll be appearing in her first starring role since the 2017 breakout hit “The Big Sick.” Kazan also co-wrote this year’s “Wildlife,” which like “An Education,” stars Carey Mulligan. Rahim was most recently seen in the Hulu limited series “The Looming Tower,” in which he played former FBI agent Ali Soufan.
2019 is a pivotal year for the Berlin Film Festival, as its leadership begins a transition from outgoing artistic director Dieter Kosslick, who is in the final year of his tenure. Carlo Chatrian is set to take over the position after serving in the same role at the Locarno Film Festival.
Scherfig’s latest follows an eccentric list of recent Berlinale openers, including Wes Anderson’s stop-motion “Isle of Dogs,” Étienne Comar’s biopic “Django,” The Coen Brothers’ “Hail Caesar!” and the Juliette Binoche-starring “Endless Night.” The 2019 Berlin Film Festival begins on February 7, 2019.