Berlin 2019: Our picks of the programme

The 69th edition of the Berlin International Film Festival kicks off this week (7-17 February) with Lone Scherfig’s The Kindness of Strangers, a “modern-day fairytale about hope, forgiveness and love” starring Andrea Riseborough, Bill Nighy, Caleb Landry Jones, Jay Baruchel, Tahar Rahim and Zoe Kazan.

Given the announcement in late 2017 that this year’s edition would act as long-serving festival director Dieter Kösslick’s swansong, there has been something rather inauspicious about it all ever since the program was fully announced. It is not unkind to suggest that Berlin has struggled to lock down premiers in recent years as filmmakers and producers either punt for a berth in Sundance in January or hold out in hope of tasting the singular prestige and razzle dazzle of Cannes. Making matters worse this year, SXSW has made a statement of its own by luring a host of promising American indies as well as the premiere of Harmony Korine’s Beach Bum. One feels that were it a few years back, Korine would have been a lock.

We digress. And, whatever the case may be, festivals are at their best as places of discovery and are best entered with eyes wide. Moreover, the 69th Berlinale is hardly devoid of high-calibre names. Juliette Binoche heads a jury that will, over the next week and a half, debate the merits of new films from François Ozon, Agnès Varda, Fatih Akin, Agnieszka Holland and Denis Côte, as well as Berlin school director Angela Schanelec’s much anticipated (by this writer at least) follow-up to her wonderful 2016 film The Dreamlike Path. More as we get it, but for now here are the Official Competition and Panorama lineups.

Official Competition
The Ground Beneath My Feet (Marie Kreutzer, Austria)
The Golden Glove (Fatih Akin, Germany/France)
By the Grace of God (François Ozon, France)
The Kindness of Strangers (Lone Scherfig, Denmark/Canada)
I Was at Home, but (Angela Schanelec, Germany/Serbia)
A Tale of Three Sisters (Emin Alper, Turkey/Germany/Netherlands/Greece)
Ghost Town Anthology (Denis Côté, Canada)
So Long, My Son (Wang Xiaoshuai, China)
Elisa & Marcela (Isabel Coixet, Spain)
God Exists, Her Name is Petrunija (Teona Strugar Mitevska, Macedonia/Belgium/Slovenia/Croatia/France)
Marighella (Wagner Moura, Brazil) (Out of competition)
Mr. Jones (Agnieszka Holland, Poland/UK/Ukraine)
Öndög (Wang Quan’an, Mongolia)
The Operative (Yuval Adler, Germany/Israel/France/USA) (Out of competition)
Piranhas (Claudio Giovannesi, Italy)
System Crasher (Nora Fingscheidt, Germany)
Out Stealing Horses (Hans Petter Moland, Norway/Sweden/Denmark)
Varda par Agnès (Varda by Agnès) (Agnès Varda, France) (Out of competition)
Farewell to the Night (André Téchiné, France/Germany) (Out of competition)
Amazing Grace (Alan Elliott, USA) (Out of competition)
Synonyms (Nadav Lapid, France/Israel/Germany)
Vice (Adam McKay, USA) (Out of competition)
One Second (Zhang Yimou, China)

Berlinale Special
Gully Boy (Zoya Akhtar, India)
Brecht (Heinrich Breloer, Germany/Austria)
Watergate (Charles Ferguson, USA)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Chiwetel Ejiofor, UK)
Kids in the Spotlight (Alice Agneskirchner, Germany)
Who You Think I Am (Safy Nebbou, France)
ANTHROPOCENE: The Human Epoch (Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, Edward Burtynsky, Canada)
It Could Have Been Worse – Mario Adorf (Dominik Wessely, Germany)
El Norte (The North) (Gregory Nava, USA, 1984)
Peter Lindbergh – Women Stories (Jean Michel Vecchiet, Germany)
Photograph (Ritesh Batra, India/Germany/USA)
You Only Live Once – Die Toten Hosen on Tour (Cordula Kablitz-Post, Germany)

37 Seconds (HIKARI (Mitsuyo Miyazaki), Japan)
Dafne (Federico Bondi, Italy)
The Day After I’m Gone (Nimrod Eldar, Israel)
A Dog Called Money (Seamus Murphy, Ireland/UK)
Waiting for the Carnival (Marcelo Gomes, Brazil)
Chained (Yaron Shani, Israel/Germany)
Flatland (Jenna Bass, South Africa/Germany/Luxembourg)
Greta (Armando Praça, Brazil)
Hellhole (Bas Devos, Belgium/Netherlands)
Jessica Forever (Caroline Poggi, Jonathan Vinel, France)
Acid (Alexander Gorchilin, Russian Federation)
Mid90s (Jonah Hill, USA)
Family Members (Mateo Bendesky, Argentina)
Monos (Alejandro Landes, Columbia/Argentina/Netherlands/Germany/Denmark/Sweden/Uruguay)
O Beautiful Night (Xaver Böhm, Germany)
Selfie (Agostino Ferrente, France/Italy)
Shooting the Mafia (Kim Longinotto, Ireland/USA)
Skin (Guy Nattiv, USA)
The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg, UK)
Tremors (Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala/France/Luxembourg)
The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea (Syllas Tzoumerkas, Greece/Germany/Netherlands/Sweden)
What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael (Rob Garver, USA)

The Berlin Film Festival runs from 7-17 February. Follow our coverage here.

Rory O’Connor | @Roryseanoc