Berlinale Panorama 2019: Breaking Free
The programme of the 2019 edition of Panorama is complete. Section head Paz Lázaro and co-curator and programme manager Michael Stütz are looking forward to presenting 45 films from 38 countries, including 34 world premieres. Among them are 29 feature films, 16 documentary formats, and 19 directorial debuts. Panorama 2019 will be presenting a controversial, political, and provocative programme.
These are times of breaking free – or so this year’s Panorama programme seems to be telling us. In a remarkable number of films, we can observe people trying to leave behind systems of heteronomy and oppression – with varying degrees of success. It might be the family, a homophobic religious group, or a capitalist system that people are trying to escape from, but the goal is always a life of self-determination – a life with more freedom and more autonomy. The hardest feat is often breaking out of your own community, the one you feel closest to. This year’s programme also features exceptional cinematic (self-)discoveries and portraits of remarkable artists.
In this year’s opening film, Flatland by Jenna Bass, two young women break free from classic social conceptions of womanhood. In this fast-paced road movie, a bride and her pregnant friend make a liberating getaway across South Africa.
In Tremblores (Tremors), director Jayro Bustamante follows a family father who tries to break free from his past after breaking the silence about his true sexuality. What he doesn’t foresee, is his Evangelical community’s dramatic and relentless responses to his coming out. Chinese society expects all men and women to adapt to a system known as “family” in A Dog Barking at the Moon, a brilliantly edited drama about two generations. When a wife discovers her husband with another man, her only refuge seems to be in the doctrines of a cult. Syllas Tzoumerkas’ furious, genre-bending To thávma tis thálassas ton Sargassón (The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea) revolves around two very different women. While one is secretly planning to break out of her dreary small-town life, the other inevitably finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into a morass of crime and perversion.
Juri is haunted by nightly panic attacks and his ever-growing fear of dying in Xaver Böhm’s mischievous first feature O Beautiful Night. One day, Death himself darkens Juri’s door. What follows is an escape from reality, and into the Berlin night. Edward Berger’s episodic family drama All My Loving shows how difficult it can be to break free from the ghosts of your past. For three siblings their only escape seems to be the present. In Kislota (Acid), Russian actor Alexander Gorchilin’s directorial debut, we observe a group of fatherless adolescents radically severing all family and religious ties to finally break loose. 37 Seconds tells the story of a talented Japanese manga artist with cerebral palsy who tries to break loose. The only way out of her social and sexual invisibility is to take matters into her own hands. Neo-Nazi Bryon Widner tries to escape his own, far-right community in Skin. Getting rid of your past quite literally means getting rid of your old skin in Guy Nattiv’s thriller which is based on a true story. In Šavovi (Stitches) a mother breaks a conspiracy of silence in order to search for her dead son and uncovers a far-reaching scandal in recent Serbian history. Different ways of breaking free from the chains of a turbo-capitalist world order are shown in two very different films about modern-day slavery. In Buoyancy, Chakra, a 15-year-old boy from Cambodia is enslaved on a fishing boat. The only way out seems to be to revolt. The documentary Estou Me Guardando Para Quando O Carnaval Chegar (Waiting for the Carnival) is a portrait of a Brazilian town and its tireless workers. Their only escape from months of commitment to their jobs in the denim manufacturing industry is the annual carnival.
In many films this year, film as a medium and the practice of filming itself plays a central role: as means of self-exploration, of filtering harsh realities, or of archiving memories. In Midnight Traveler, the footage Hassan Fazili records when he and his family are forced to flee Afghanistan serves as proof of their survival. The camera, which accompanies them on their strenuous journey on the Balkan route, also chronicles the world’s increasingly rigid isolationist policies. Filming one’s own family would appear to be a therapeutic, yet painful project in Western Arabs. After fleeing Palestine as a young man, a father’s wounds refuse to heal. Denmark-born director Omar Shargawi uses his camera both as a shield and a filter in his attempt to get close to a patriarch.In Selfie, two friends are given cameras so that they themselves can decide which images will capture their lives in Naples. The fascinating self-portraits that emerge range in tone from light-hearted to hopeless, providing both an intimate insight into the last days of childhood and a foretaste of a crime-ridden future. Eva is a sex worker, a feminist, and a rebel. Pia Hellenthal portrays this strong, yet vulnerable woman using an idiosyncratic mix of documentary observations, scripted scenes and her protagonist’s own self-staging. And in between takes, her social media followers are also given a voice in Searching Eva. From the VHS footage of a troubled childhood in Jonah Hill’s debut Mid90s, or the material a Senegalese tourist guide records on a camcorder in Staff Only, to Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, in which a young film student’s 16mm films allow her to explore a world outside her social and emotional bubble: film as a protagonist and the act of filming run like a thread through this year’s programme.
Unusual portraits of extraordinary artists also feature strongly in this year’s programme. In Lemembel, Joanna Reposi assembles a vast variety of archival footage and home videos to remember Pedro Lemebel. Her hypnotic stream of images merges to form a portrait of this Chilenian author, activist and performance artist who died in 2015. La fiera y la fiesta (Holy Beasts) remembers an artist in the form of a somnambulistic fantasy: a filmmaker faces increasing challenges as she tries, decades later, to complete Dominican filmmaker Jean-Louis Jorge’s unfinished work. A Dog Called Money by photographer Seamus Murphy is an unconventional portrait of singer-songwriter PJ Harvey. The film documents their journeys together to Afghanistan, Kosovo and Washingston D.C.. On her travels, Harvey finds inspiration for an album we simultaneously watch her record in a pop-up studio in London. In Serendipity, sculptor and multi-media artist Prune Nourry presents an intimate self-portrait in which she combines images of her art with personal reflections on femininity and her battle with breast cancer. Système K (System K) affords breathtaking insights into Kinshasa’s street art scene, while in Talking About Trees we follow four Sudanese filmmakers on their journey through dusty archives and bureaucratic institutions. Their dream: To bring cinema back to Sudan. Kim Longinotto’s Shooting the Mafia portrays legendary photographer Letizia Battaglia, whose visual account of the mafia changed public perceptions. In Schönheit & Vergänglichkeit (Beauty and Decay) by Annekatrin Hendel, East German photographers Sven Marquardt and Robert Paris talk about the good old days with muse and survival artist Dominique Hollenstein. Finally, What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael looks at film criticism as an art form and remembers, with the help of an impressive selection of film clips and interviews, the strident and controversial author Pauline Kael.
Other newly announced films:
La Arrancada (On the starting line) – France / Cuba / Brazil
by Aldemar Matias
Aldemar Matias delivers this delicate, sensitively filmed family portrait from Cuba. The life of competitive athlete Jenniffer is on the brink of change, just like the whole country. She is poised on the starting blocks – and not just in the 100-meter dash.
Der Atem (The Breath) – Germany
by Uli M Schueppel
Twenty-six people talk about love and hardship, hope and bitterness, fear and happiness accompanied by celluloid images of Berlin at night. A symphony of life, a magical cosmos. The third part of the filmmaker’s “Chants” trilogy on space, time and the body.
Breve historia del planeta verde (Brief Story from the Green Planet)
Argentina / Germany / Brazil / Spain
by Santiago Loza
When Tania finds out that her grandma has spent her final years in the caring company of a cute purple alien, she embarks on a journey through small-town Argentina with two close friends to deliver the creature back to its origins.
Divino Amor (Divine Love)
Brazil / Uruguay / Chile / Denmark / Norway / Sweden
by Gabriel Mascaro
Brazil, 2027. Joana, a member of evangelical cult Divino Amor, treats couples that want to separate by performing ritualised sexual acts with them and her husband. But her own marriage and faith are suffering due to her unfulfilled desire to have children.
Flesh out – Italy / France
by Michela Occhipinti
Verida is due to marry in three months. According to a Mauritanian tradition, she has to put on a lot of weight to appeal to her husband. The weight gain process gets harder as it progresses, and Verida begins to ask herself if this is what she really wants.
Light of My Life – USA
by Casey Affleck
A post-apocalyptic family drama by and with Casey Affleck about a father determined to protect his daughter at all costs. In a society without women, gender roles have to be renegotiated.
Normal – Italy
by Adele Tulli
Adele Tullis’s formally straightforward but aesthetically convincing documentary examines rigidly defined gender roles and many people’s uncritical submission to the dictates of (hetero-)normativity.
The Shadow Play – People’s Republic of China
by Lou Ye
After a demonstration against the demolition of old buildings, the director of the municipal building commission is found dead. In the guise of a film noir, a tale unfolds of corruption, building scandals and ruthless avarice.
Woo Sang (Idol) – South Korea
by Lee Su-jin
Politician Koo Myung-hui discovers his wife in the garage, cleaning their son’s bloodstained car. He has just run someone over. A rain-drenched political thriller with neo-noir elements.
The films of Panorama 2019:
37 Seconds by HIKARI with Mei Kayama, Misuzu Kanno, Makiko Watanabe, Shunsuke Daitō, Yuka Itaya. Japan – Debut film, World premiere
All My Loving by Edward Berger with Lars Eidinger, Nele Mueller-Stöfen, Hans Löw. Germany – World premiere
La Arrancada (On the Starting Line) by Aldemar Matias. France/Cuba/Brazil – Debut film, Panorama Dokumente, World premiere
Der Atem (The Breath) by Uli M Schueppel. Germany – World premiere
Breve historia del planeta verde (Brief Story from the Green Planet) by Santiago Loza with Romina Escobar, Paula Grinszpan, Luis Soda. Argentina / Germany / Brazil / Spain – World premiere
Buoyancy by Rodd Rathjen with Sarm Heng, Thanawut Kasro, Mony Ros. Australia – Debut film, World premiere
Dafne by Federico Bondi with Carolina Raspanti, Antonio Piovanelli, Stefania Casini. Italy – World premiere
The Day After I’m Gone by Nimrod Eldar with Menashe Noy, Zohar Meidan. Israel – Debut film, World premiere
Divino Amor (Divine Love) by Gabriel Mascaro with Dira Paes, Julio Machado. Brazil / Uruguay / Chile / Denmark / Norway / Sweden – European premiere
A Dog Barking at the Moon by Xiang Zi with Nan Ji, Naren Hua, Zhang Xinyue. People’s Republic of China / Spain – Debut film, World premiere
A Dog Called Money by Seamus Murphy with PJ Harvey. Ireland / United Kingdom – Debut film, Panorama Dokumente, World premiere
Estou Me Guardando Para Quando O Carnaval Chegar (Waiting for the Carnival) by Marcelo Gomes. Brazil – Panorama Dokumente, World premiere
Eynayim Sheli (Chained) by Yaron Shani with Eran Naim, Stav Almagor, Stav Patai. Israel / Germany – World premiere
La fiera y la fiesta (Holy Beasts) by Laura Amelia Guzmán, Israel Cárdenas with Geraldine Chaplin, Udo Kier, Luis Ospina, Jaime Piña, Jackie Ludueña. Dominican Republic / Argentina / Mexico –World premiere
Flatland by Jenna Bass with Faith Baloyi, Nicole Fortuin, Izel Bezuidenhout. South Africa / Luxemburg / Germany – World premiere
Flesh Out by Michela Occhipinti with Verida Beitta Ahmed Deiche, Amal Saad Bouh Oumar, Aichetou Abdallahi Najim, Sidi Mohamed Chighaly. Italy – Debut film, World premiere
Greta by Armando Praça with Marco Nanini, Denise Weinberg, Demick Lopes, Gretta Sttar. Brazil – Debut film, World premiere
Hellhole by Bas Devos with Willy Thomas, Alba Rohrwacher, Lubna Azabal, Hamza Belarbi. Belgium / Netherlands – World premiere
Jessica Forever by Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel with Aomi Muyock, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Augustin Raguenet, Lukas Ionesco, Eddy Suiveng, Paul Hamy, Maya Coline. France – Debut film,European premiere
Kislota (Acid) by Alexander Gorchilin with Filipp Avdeev, Alexander Kuznetsov, Arina Shevtsova, Alexandra Rebenok, Savva Saveliev. Russian Federation – Debut film, International premiere
Lemebel by Joanna Reposi Garibaldi. Chile / Colombia – Panorama Dokumente, World premiere
Light of My Life by Casey Affleck with Anna Pniowsky, Casey Affleck, Elisabeth Moss. USA – Debut film, World premiere
Mid90s by Jonah Hill with Sunny Suljic, Lucas Hedges, Katherine Waterston, Na-Kel Smith, Olan Prenatt. USA – Debut film, European premiere
Midnight Traveler by Hassan Fazili und Emelie Mahdavian. USA / United Kingdom / Qatar / Canada – Debut film, Panorama Dokumente, International premiere
Los miembros de la familia (Family Members) by Mateo Bendesky with Tomás Wicz, Laila Maltz, Alejandro Russek. Argentina – World premiere
Monos by Alejandro Landes with Julianne Nicholson, Moisés Arias, Sofia Buenaventura, Julián Giraldo, Karen Quintero. Colombia / Argentina / Netherlands / Denmark / Sweden / Germany / Uruguay / USA – European premiere
Normal by Adele Tulli. Italy / Sweden – Debut film, Panorama Dokumente, World premiere
O Beautiful Night by Xaver Böhm with Noah Saavedra, Marko Mandić, Vanessa Loibl. Germany – Debut film, World premiere
Šavovi (Stitches) by Miroslav Terzić with Snežana Bogdanović, Marko Baćović, Jovana Stojiljković. Serbia / Slovenia / Croatia / Bosnia and Herzegovina – World premiere
Schönheit & Vergänglichkeit (Beauty and Decay) by Annekatrin Hendel. Germany – Panorama Dokumente, World premiere
Searching Eva by Pia Hellenthal. Germany – Debut film, Panorama Dokumente, World premiere
Selfie by Agostino Ferrente. France / Italy – Panorama Dokumente, World premiere
Serendipity by Prune Nourry. USA – Debut film – Panorama Dokumente, World premiere
The Shadow Play by Lou Ye with Jing Boran, Song Jia, Qin Hao, Ma Sichun. People’s Republic of China – European premiere
Shooting the Mafia by Kim Longinotto. Ireland / USA – Panorama Dokumente, European premiere
Skin by Guy Nattiv with Jamie Bell, Danielle Macdonald, Vera Farmiga, Bill Camp, Mike Colter, USA – European premiere
The Souvenir by Joanna Hogg with Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, Tilda Swinton. UK – European premiere
Staff Only by Neus Ballús with Sergi López, Elena Andrada, Ian Samsó, Diomaye A. Ngom, Madeleine C. Ndong. Spain / France – World premiere
Système K (System K) by Renaud Barret. France – Panorama Dokumente, World premiere
Talking About Trees by Suhaib Gasmelbari. France / Sudan / Germany / Chad / Qatar – Debut film, Panorama Dokumente, World premiere
Temblores (Tremors) by Jayro Bustamante with Juan Pablo Olyslager, Mauricio Armas Zebadúa, Diane Bathen, María Telón. Guatemala / France / Luxemburg – World premiere
To thávma tis thálassas ton Sargassón (The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea) by Syllas Tzoumerkas with Angeliki Papoulia, Youla Boudali, Christos Passalis, Argyris Xafis, Thanasis Dovris. Greece /Germany / Netherlands / Sweden – World premiere
Western Arabs by Omar Shargawi. Denmark / Netherlands – Panorama Dokumente, World premiere
What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael by Rob Garver with Sarah Jessica Parker, Quentin Tarantino, Alec Baldwin, David O. Russell, Paul Schrader. USA – Debut film, Panorama Dokumente, International premiere
Woo Sang (Idol) by Lee Su-jin with Han Seok-kyu, Seol Kyung-gu, Chun Woo-hee. South Korea – World premiere