The Berlinale: a great cultural event and one of the most important dates for the international film industry. More than 334,000 sold tickets, more than 21,000 professional visitors from 127 countries, including more than 3,700 journalists: art, glamour, parties and business are all inseparably linked at the Berlinale.

Films of every genre, length and format find their place in the various sections: great international cinema in the Competition, independent and art house in Panorama, films for young audiences in Generation, new discoveries and promising talents from the German film scene in Perspektive Deutsches Kino, avant garde, experimental and unfamiliar cinematography in the Forum and Forum Expanded, and an exploration of cinematic possibilities in Berlinale Shorts.

The Berlin International Film Festival is a source of inspiration in the global film community: film programmes, workshops, panel discussions, joint projects with other social and cultural actors – the forms of cooperation and the possibilities for creative interaction are countless.

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Kazuhiro Sôda films the regular everyday life of his wife’s parents, Toshio and Hiroko Kashiwagi, who have now retired but continue to work as social assistants. Each of them goes to cook for someone, take him out to the park, to the doctor’s or to buy shoes, every day, and then they booth relax and work on their house, clean, cook, feed the cats. It’s a beautiful, understatedly romantic life in which they take their time and do everything with such care that it ends up looking like some kind of a ritual to a Western viewer.

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Documentaries

  • Abu

    Abu

    What made Abu such a revelation in this year’s edition of River to River Film Festival in Florence, was its honesty. Arshad Khan’s film is so personal that it almost feels wrong watching it. It’s like peeking through a keyhole…

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  • Ask the Sexpert

    Ask the Sexpert

    “Be more caring and learn the art of foreplay. She may then prefer you to the banana every time”. This is the kind of advice that Dr. Mahinder Watsa has for his patients, that is, answers that combine common sense,…

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  • Becoming Cary Grant

    Becoming Cary Grant

    I have to come clear and admit that I knew nothing about Cary Grant the man before watching Mark Kidel’s Becoming Cary Grant. I knew him as an actor and enjoyed him in every capacity, from a comedian to a…

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  • Peace

    Peace

    At some point in Peace, the filmmaker’s father-in-law is asked why someone acted in a certain way, to which he stoically replies something along the lines, you would need to ask them, because I don’t know and I don’t want…

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  • L’Ultima Popstar

    L’Ultima Popstar

    L’Ultima Popstar starts silently; it quietly creeps up on you, building itself gradually, seemingly harmlessly. Nature’s sounds start mixing with some human movement, machines with birds, as something big seems to be brewing. Is it a concert? Some kind of a…

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  • Aperti al Pubblico

    Aperti al Pubblico

    A Council Housing office in Naples manages about 40,000 apartments around the city. This same office goes from doing a serious job, to verbally attacking its customers, from trying to help those in need, to refusing to bend any kind…

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  • Good Luck

    Good Luck

    Good Luck starts with a long sequence of an orchestra playing and making its way from a tower to a dump. They’re in the middle of nowhere, playing the most powerful music, and letting us observe their faces up close –…

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  • Il Principe di Ostia Bronx

    Il Principe di Ostia Bronx

    I got to see quite a few profoundly moving documentaries at this year’s version of Biografilm Festival in Bologna, but none touched me half as much as Il Principe di Ostia Bronx. Now that’s quite the statement, considering the selection of…

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  • SHOT! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock

    SHOT! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock

    Mick Rock was the man behind album covers such as Lou Reed’s Transformer, and The Stooges’ Raw Power, as well as David Bowie’s iconic Starman video, and was the creator of almost literally every photograph that has built up our…

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Features

  • Wrong Side Raju

    Wrong Side Raju

    The film starts with an earth-shattering event. At a checkpoint outside Ahmedabad, an unforgettable car accident comes out of nowhere, out of the darkness, and in this moment, the viewer is made aware that this event, only moments after the…

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  • Streamer

    Streamer

    In the last scene of Streamer, on the left hand side above the laptop and beer can, a small black-and-white poster of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver can be seen; the most famous one where Travis Bickle’s pictured alone, walking towards…

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  • Abu

    Abu

    What made Abu such a revelation in this year’s edition of River to River Film Festival in Florence, was its honesty. Arshad Khan’s film is so personal that it almost feels wrong watching it. It’s like peeking through a keyhole…

    Read more

  • Ask the Sexpert

    Ask the Sexpert

    “Be more caring and learn the art of foreplay. She may then prefer you to the banana every time”. This is the kind of advice that Dr. Mahinder Watsa has for his patients, that is, answers that combine common sense,…

    Read more

  • Rajkummar Rao as Newton and as Omar Sheikh

    Rajkummar Rao as Newton and as Omar Sheikh

    At the viewing of Omerta, I had the opportunity to meet writer-director Hansal Mehta, who openly admitted to be drawing most of his inspiration from his lead actor, Rajkummar Rao. He went as far as to confess that Rao is his…

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  • Ventilator

    Ventilator

    Ventilator is so real. At least for someone of my ethnic background and of my family complexity, it feels as though I’m watching family videos. This is as much a compliment as it is criticism, since watching family footage can…

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  • My Pure Land

    My Pure Land

    My Pure Land doesn’t beat around the bush. It throws you right in and keeps you at the edge of your seat without ever letting you go. It’s an intense story packed with gunshots, but that is not where the…

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  • Anomalisa

    Anomalisa

    Days come and go without anything happening. Stuck-in-a-routine doesn’t even begin to describe it. Everything is the same, almost identical. You get up, get ready, go to the most mundane office, work the same hours doing the same things, come…

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  • Tony Camonte vs Tony Montana

    Tony Camonte vs Tony Montana

    Both in need of a good night’s sleep, both constantly drunk and verging on insane, but who is more of an antagonist? They are both essentially their own worst enemies, but who is more unhinged? It’s a difficult question that…

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Interviews

  • Amartya Bhattacharyya speaks to Unsung Films

    Amartya Bhattacharyya speaks to Unsung Films

    Amartya Bhattacharyya, writer-director of The Lost Idea, speaks to Unsung Films The Lost Idea is a fantasy driven tale of two men, a poet and a painter, claiming possession over the same Idea, in a rural village portrayed as a wonderland….

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  • An Interview with Colin Broderick

    An Interview with Colin Broderick

    Colin Broderick is a playwright, filmmaker and author. He grew up in the heart of Northern Ireland and was raised Irish Catholic during The Troubles. In 1988, at the age of twenty, he moved to the Bronx to drink, work…

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  • An Interview with Lindy Heymann

    An Interview with Lindy Heymann

    An Interview with Lindy Heymann, Director of Showboy, Kicks and The Laughing King Lindy Heymann is an award winning director who received a BIFA for Best Directorial Debut for her feature film Showboy, which also won Best Film at the Milan…

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  • Brent Chesanek talks to Zachary Wyman about City World

    Brent Chesanek talks to Zachary Wyman about City World

    In support of Brent Chesanek’s new film Academy and its production campaign, here is an interview with the filmmaker about his previous film, City World. Questions were sent on April 4, 2013; answers were received about two months later. …What’s…

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  • Paddy’s Paradise

    Paddy’s Paradise

    One touch of nature makes the whole world kin -William Shakespeare When I occasionally have the privilege of watching independent films made by aspiring film directors, I am reminded of the beauty and addiction of cinema. Despite my personal disinterest…

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  • Interview: Mike Freedman on Critical Mass

    Interview: Mike Freedman on Critical Mass

    Unsung Films watched Mike Freedman’s Critical Mass this year when it screened at the Biografilm Festival in Bologna. On approaching the filmmaker with a short review of his documentary, we ended up with a great deal more: a 3000-word interview taking readers deep into the story of how Freedman’s film came together, how it affected him – both personally and professionally — and what we should expect in the years to come.

  • Pushwagner: The Man Behind The Mask, The Men Behind The Film

    Pushwagner: The Man Behind The Mask, The Men Behind The Film

    Some documentarians are not content with being journalists, searching for the objective truth of a subject. Directors Even Benestad and August B. Hanssen pushed their medium to its limits in Pushwagner, a “documentary” (if that’s the right word) tracing a Norwegian pop artist known for dystopian sketches in a disarmingly simple, comic book style. “Maybe we could do this ‘Portrait of an Artist’ in a different, new way,” says Even in Sutton Place Hotel, Toronto. Pushwagner is having its North American premiere at Hot Docs.

  • Cannes Short Film Corner: The Foreigner by Alethea Avramis

    Cannes Short Film Corner: The Foreigner by Alethea Avramis

    A short film involves an entirely different creative process to a feature or a series. A filmmaker has very little time, less than 30 minutes to tell a story, grip his audience, evoke emotions and develop characters adequately. Indeed very few filmmakers manage to come up with shorts that tick all these boxes and the fact that Alethea Avramis’ The Foreigner does all this in less than half an hour and in a subtle and artistic way, is exactly what makes this film stand out among other shorts of its genre.

  • Hot Docs Toronto: The Punk Syndrome

    Hot Docs Toronto: The Punk Syndrome

    Punk was always a genre that found its stripped-down groove in unqualified anger. You can forward a lot of theories on why young men and women embraced punk in the 1970s (Watergate? Stagflation? A backlash against Simon and Garfunkel?), but you cannot deny the anti-establishment philosophy that is central to its power and appeal.

Sarmad Masud’s film very quickly becomes Nazo Dharejo’s and Suhaee Abro’s film. This is an all-female film, even though the majority of characters are male, the society in which it all takes place is very much male and the hardness is in stark contrast with the softness and beauty of the women we get to know. This is feminism at its best and strongest, badass women, succeeding in humiliating their male oppressors while in dresses and perfect make-up. And fighting for their honour with much fewer weapons and much more dignity than their opponents. Just three women, while countless jeeps keep arriving packed with armed men, is not exactly what we’d call a fair game – but then again nothing is fair in these women’s lives and they seem used to it by now. They still prefer to die with their heads up high, than to ever bow down to any of these people.

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The documentary is split into two parts – the first in a Serbian mine and the second in an illegal Surinamese gold mine. An all male film, Good Luck studies its brave subjects as they work, interact, reflect on their job and life and just joke around and unwind. These are men that have forgotten the dreams they once had; men who have been working in the depths of the earth or the jungle for decades; men who feel uncomfortable telling their story even though it’s remarkable; men who would hate to see their sons one day do what they do. Indeed, if there is one thing that all these very different, lands apart men can agree on, is that their children will go to school, get an education and do something better, perhaps in an office, maybe even using pens.

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One can see Östlund takes great pleasure filling his films with what he calls “horrifying awkward moments.” Encounters are all too frequently so embarrassing they are painful and funny to watch. Protagonists are uncomfortably faced with more than one possibility how to act that there are only inappropriate ways of doing things. In the film’s absurd universe, Christian all too frequently finds himself to be the victim of every situation he is faced with: his colleague, who comes up with the idea of sending letters forces Christian to enter the apartment block to do his own dirty work.

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I was expecting an ode to Cate Blanchett’s surreal acting abilities — which of course I got — but the Blanchett goldmine was really only the icing on Manifesto‘s cake. It didn’t seem to need anybody’s help in order to explode with beauty and power and significance, as Rosenfeldt seems to possess just as otherworldly capabilities as his lead actress herself. This is one hell of a collaboration — not only of talents, but also of images, words and music. The three are so magnificently intertwined that the right Manifesto viewer keeps getting chills down his spine throughout the 2-hour viewing.

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Il Principe di Ostia Bronx is in a nutshell all that a documentary should be. Very much like Herzog and Morris, Raffaele Passerini has delivered what might well be described as the perfect documentary film. One that is so absurd and humane, so warm and absolute bonkers, that most successfully evokes real life itself. This film is honest in how crazy it is …

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Unsung Cult

Drowning by Numbers is a dark and exciting mix of Wes Anderson for its colours and its quirks, French “Nouvelle Vague” for its irony and absurdity and Ealing Studios for its black humour and satirical edge. The film is filled with a sense of casualness in dealing with matters like murder and suicide and never do the lives of the protagonists’ victims matter more than a sarcastic remark or a very English “Oh my”. Greenaway injects the film with trivial moments that shock and delight in between acts of shocking cruelty. There are scenes that involve a conversation about marriage on top of a pile of dead cows in the middle of the road…

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Unsung Face-Off

Both in need of a good night’s sleep, both constantly drunk and verging on insane, but who is more of an antagonist? They are both essentially their own worst enemies, but who is more unhinged? It’s a difficult question that needs exploring, even though we’d all rush into picking Tony Montana. But such a reflex reaction would be hasty, for Montana’s fury may indeed make him an easier target, not to mention his greed and desperate need to lead which function as a bit of a soft spot, but Camonte, also, has his fair share of loose screws, and his killing style can attest to this.

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Unsung Horror

While it started with what seemed like a very clear direction ahead of it, the film took a few unusual turns which culminated in a series of unusual outcomes. This is mainly visible in Tina’s peculiar transformation, as her shyness and emotional vulnerability leads to a ruthlessness that can’t even be traced in the most cold-blooded killers. Chris, who is presented as a psychopathic superhero, and whose murders are calculated and target-specific (predominantly the British upper classes) is forced to watch as his unorthodox methods influence his lover to an increasingly problematic extent.

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