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  • Berlinale blog 2023: Daily updates


Berlinale blog 2023: Daily updates

Berlin International Film festival is back - and our editors are on the ground. It's the Berlinale blog!

Berlinale day ten: The curtain closes on the Berlinale

As the weekend draws to a close, so does the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival. On a snowy Sunday afternoon we arrived at Cubix for our final screening of the festival, things feeling rather off kilter and surreal; the curtain was closing on the buzz and ongoing exhaustive exhilaration of just under two weeks of festival madness. 

Eight-year old Sofía Otero at the Berlinale Closing Ceremony. Otero won the Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance in 20,000 Species of Bees. This is the first time the award has ever been given to a child actor. Photo: IMAGO / Future Image

It’s a pity the Berlinale is always labelled the less glamorous of the ‘big three’ festivals, against its peers Cannes and Venice. These European festivals are integral to the international climate of cinema; where deals are made and the forecasting and tastemaking for the next 12 months takes place. The Berlinale takes place at the start of the festival calendar, which means that (along with unfavourable red carpet weather conditions) it’s the first to take the hit of the industry with regards to acquisitions, distribution and critics’ takes.

Not to mention, a lot of art film productions hold off on showcasing their latest films for Cannes. Although the glamour is stripped back, there is a generous and diverse program open to the public. This year was quite a spectacle. There were spades of stars (Steven Spielberg, Kristen Stewart, Sydney Sweeny and Cate Blanchet to name a few), surreal speeches (see Bono on Spielberg), an impressive performance from John Malcholvik, a zoom call from Zelensky and a scarcity of tickets to rival Glastonbury. Yet beneath it all was an overwhelmingly good festival.

EFM Diary: The final day

Journalist and filmmaker Ben Knight is at the Berlinale trying to sell his documentary. Here’s his second update from the European Film Market.

The European Film Market has packed up, and it’s a melancholy sight. What business there was to accomplish has been accomplished, and the plasterboard booths and hip-high cubicles called “pop-up offices” have all been folded up.

A Berlinale press release that just plonked into my inbox is declaring this year’s edition a triumph. After being forced online for two years by the deadly virus, 2023 saw “record results” it says breathlessly, before slipping into an avalanche of numbers: “with 230 stands and 612 companies from 78 countries and a total of over 11,500 market participants from 132 countries … 773 films were shown in 1,533 screenings, including 647 online screenings and 599 market premieres.”

“No one will ever see any of them probably,” one man from a UK distributor commented to me, gloomily watching film posters being rolled up. Most of them look like posters for fictional films, featuring stars famous in another universe. It’s a sobering thought alright, thousands of films, representing millions of hours of stress and hope, washing around the ether.

Ben Knight, We’re All Goin To Die

Speaking of which, my film: We’re All Going To Die. My painstakingly honed “info-sheet”, with its logline and technical specs and nice quotes from the few people who’ve seen it, was dispatched to distributors and sales agents and basically anyone who accidentally showed a passing interest. I went to parties sowing my flyers and talked excitedly to random people – it can’t hurt, you never know. Let’s wait and see – you almost have to find a masochistic streak to the mantras.

And, well, it wasn’t completely hopeless. I extracted several promises to watch my Vimeo link, and even wangled a meeting with a UK distributor and production company which turned out to be promising (“My wife’s getting into prepping,” he said). A woman from German Films, the organisation designed to help film-makers export their films, promised a meeting where we could make a “festival strategy.” And, finally, one contact suggested that I treat the film as a rough cut (even though the thought of editing any more gives me a mild sense of panic) – this will give distributors the feeling that they still have some sense of control, apparently. All this is 3D chess. All I can do is keep going.  

Berlinale day eight: Old and new gems

Another early morning press screening, this time for Rotel Himmel, the latest film from Christian Petzold. The funny and profound relationship drama is set in an idyllic landscape – a woodland cottage by the sea, in the heat of summertime. Leon (Thomas Schubert) and Felix (Langston Uibel) are staying at Felix’s mum’s cottage. Leon needs to finish his manuscript for his editor, Felix is working on a portfolio for art school.

Photo: Schramm Film

Leon is uptight and snobby and finds it hard to unwind; the more wound up he becomes, the more the surrounding elements keep him from his work. Felix rolls with the punches and is chipper, at one with nature; finding time to swim and befriend the locals, including Nadja (Paula Beer), another unexpected guest at the cottage that weekend. Over the course of the weekend, Felix, Nadja and local lifeguard Devid (Enno Trebs) enjoy a good time whilst a disgruntled Leon further alienates himself, becoming almost a caricature in his demeanour. But Leon is not a villain, and here Petzold creates a tale in which the characters ebb and flow in their complexities, and where there is warmth (and fire) on the film’s descent into melancholy.

Today’s Berlinale’s Retrospective Programme featured Sofia Coppola’s 1999 feature debut, The Virgin Suicides. Edward Lachman’s cinematography is nothing short of mind blowing, as is the dejected narration over arching the work, taken from Jeffrey Eugenides source material of the same name. 23 years after its release, the film is still a stunning piece of contemporary American cinema.

PhotoL Paramount pictures

Seneca: On the Creation of Earthquakes ★★★★

Here’s the kind of film you don’t get to see much anymore – a big star-vehicle that goes for absolute broke. Robert Schwentke’s Seneca, with its willfully misleading subtitle “On the Creation of Earthquakes”, revels in its own excesses, but also has a profound political point.

Photo: Berlinale Special

And finally, somewhere buried under a mountain of sarcasm, sneering asides, and comic violence, this film has something important to say about the vanities that come with facing death.

It might also annoy you intensely. Several people walked out in the first half-hour of the packed-out screening. Schwentke’s film throws in wild anachronisms both linguistic (“whatevs”) and visual (pylons, tanks, diggers) that ensure you’re never allowed to comfortably consign these horrific events to the past.

The setting is 65 AD (most of the time), on the famous night that Emperor (or President, as he’s called here) Nero gave his former rhetoric teacher and ethics advisor his famous ultimatum: Commit suicide or suffer a grisly execution in the morning.

What unfolds over that night makes up the bulk of the film, as Seneca is forced to test the value of his much-celebrated Stoic philosophy. The film enjoys itself immensely playing on Seneca’s self-importance and obsession with his own legacy. Malkovich has a hell of a time driving his decadent dinner guests, his too-young wife (brilliant performance by Lilith Stangenberg), his servants, and the actual audience insane with his pompous pontificating. What you’re left with, at the end of an exhausting and over-stimulating assault on the brain, is a troubling sense that our obsession with “living a good life” is what has led our narcissistic race to its doom. Terrific stuff.

Photo: Apple Films

Berlinale day seven: Incel hell

It was an early start for one of us with the press screening for Angela Schanelec’s Music. If you like your films meditative, mysterious, austere and with a touch of the strange and choreographed, don’t miss the chance to catch this on the big screen. The film has the myth of Oedipus, but i can’t be reduced to a simple parable – and the character’s wardrobes and colour palettes alone are a thing to marvel in.

Photo: Shellac Film

Later on, the day got more hectic, phone chargers not working, meeting directors to interview (tbc!) and press passes forgotten and just that general feeling of being (un)grounded. But we picked ourselves up for Manodrome. This was, in our opinion, the biggest rotten apple we’re caught so far: so bad it was almost funny – even if Jesse Eisenberg was impressively twisted. In this film we follow Eisenberg’s Ralphie, an angry incel and modern day Travis Bickell . Leaning on old tropes, the script is written at a very base level. What we get is a grim, sanitised film that collapses in on itself – at points it feels like a spoof film of Safdie brothers / Scorsese.

Photo: Wyatt Garfield

Last but not least, we got the chance to dig into some of the wonderful Retrospective programme. This year the theme is coming of age some brilliant filmmaking talent has been assembled for these films that resonate with that transitional period in a young person’s life. This evening it was Jury President Kristen Stewart’s pick – Now and Then, a cult 90s film directed by Lesli Linka Glatter featuring Christina Ricci, Melanie Griffith and Thora Birch. This tragicomic gem is set in the summer of the 1970s and involves the small town ins and outs of a group of friends through flashback and nostalgia. A brilliant film. In fact, the whole retrospective program is well worth checking out. 

Photo: Moving Pictures

Berlinale day six: (Trying to) stay alive

Monday saw your trusted editors headed down to the beautiful Kino International on Karl Marx Allee for one of the Panorama sections most impressive works: Martín Benchimol’s debut feature, El Castillo. A modern day fairytale with beautiful hues. This is an otherworldly experience and a highlight of the festival far. Panorama really are on it! This sublime and subtle mother daughter fairy-tale is situated in an inherited castle where we see the fallen but still proud remnants of a dying upper class. The castle is too much, too grand, and this ambient meander captures the special bond between the mum and daughter. The house is filled with animals that they don’t want to kill, nor sell but they have to and as the flock reduces we see that it is the fear of losing each other that lies at the heart of this fierce union. 

Photo: Mayra Bottero / Gema Films, Sister Productions

After that, it was back to the Verite Music Hall for another debut feature: Giacomo Abbruzzese’s Disco Boy, which is running in the main competition and staring Franz Rogowski in another Berlinale performance. The film is a furious odyssey into freedom and brutality with pulp, plump and principles. It takes risks and reaps the rewards: a fever dream cut tightly – winking and nudging to the likes of Gaspar Noé and Claire Denis. It has cosmic scope and is a remarkable first feature, there’ll be some chin strokers for this brazen work – perhaps the metaphors and intra-filmic references aren’t subtle enough. Underneath the style is substance. Golden Bear? Why not!

Photo: Films Grand Huit

Berlinale day five: Boom boom and blackberries

Sunday had a couple of gems. 

It started out with an unexpected guest appearance from Boris Becker, fresh out of jail and along with director Alex Gibney to present the first instalment and world premiere of his two part documentary which will be coming to Apple TV later in the year, Boom Boom Boris Becker. Here we see him at his prime, a raw powerhouse. Off the court, his hangers-on might not have played quite as sweetly – but this was a perfectly fine sports documentary that left us keen for part two. 

Photo: Budgie Films Inc.

Later on, we headed to Verite Music Hall (our least favourite venue so far, with school hall seating and overpriced beer) for BlackBerry. Already in the mood to be wowed, we weren’t let down. This brilliant and gripping film from Canadian actor/director Matt Johnson is an empathic, hilarious and stylish look into the rise and fall of BlackBerry. Following two Beavis and Butthead gamers and their CEO business partner, it’s a compelling exploration of shifts in technology and how power erodes minds. This sleek ride has a killer score, pitch perfect script and will hopefully see a very exciting year ahead.

Ingeborg Bachmann – Journey into the Desert ★

It might help to know a little about the Austrian literary giant before you go into “Ingeborg Bachmann – Reise in die Wüste” – but the pre-knowledge might also get in the way. This competition entry by seasoned German director Margarethe von Trotta boils down to what should be an interesting scenario: How bad can a relationship get when it’s made up of two massively successful writers? The answer: Pretty bad – especially when you’re struggling to find the mot juste because someone’s hammering away at their incredibly noisy typewriter all day in the other room. Did the invention of laptops save writer relationships?

Unfortunately, where this film could’ve pursued the fertile drama of two heavyweight literary egos trapped in the confines of co-habitation, it opts instead to turn Bachmann’s relationship with the Swiss playwright Max Frisch into a hackneyed tale of a clever woman stifled by the patriarchal bourgeoisie. This is basically TV-movie Ibsen. Ronald Zehrfeld’s portrayal of Max Frisch definitely doesn’t help. I don’t know a lot about Frisch (except his much-loved humanist fable Andorra which I had to do for A-Level German), but he’s got to have been more than the smug bore he’s made to be here, forever glowering over his pipe and his newspaper, making himself miserable with jealousy. There’s no hint why Bachmann, the preeminent poet of her era, played as a woman of depth and strength by Vicky Krieps, would consent to 10 minutes in a room with him, never mind consign herself to entombment in his painfully neat suburban Swiss house.

Anyway, all we really know is that Frisch never does the bloody washing up and doesn’t feel comfortable in tan suits, and Bachmann can’t get a decent espresso in Zurich, so she flees to the desert to indulge a penchant for, well, young men from the Arab world. They don’t get any lines, or noticeable character features, but they do get to take part in an extremely staid orgy. To top it off, this film’s idea of liberation even has an uncomfortably neo-colonialist overtone to it. ★

Berlinale day four: Rain does not make for red carpet

Photo: Florence-Scott Anderton

So, on a rained out Saturday, we thought we’d avoid the razzmatazz of the Competition, which means we’re back at Akademie der Kunst. To be honest, the days are beginning to merge into one and we’ve not passed the first weekend. 

The Adults ★★

First up, Dustin Guy Defa’s The Adults, which is running as part of Encounters selection.

Photo: Universal Pictures

Here we have Rachel (Hannah Gross), Maggie (Sophia Lillis) and Eric (Michael Cera) who’ve not spent much time together since their mother’s death five years ago. Rachel and Maggie still live in the same sleepy town, while Eric left a while ago and doesn’t have any desire to come back to – nor does he seem grounded in any sense of home, moving about from flight to flight, hotel to hotel – a beatnik version of Clooney’s Ryan Bingham from Up In The Air.

What ensues is several attempts at bonding. Maggie is the youngest and sweetest with the most obvious need for connection from both siblings. Rachel and Eric’s relationship is more complex, and keeps this picture bubbling over into something more than a so-twee-I-can’t-breathe-trying-to-do-mumblecore-mistake. It gets to a point where the only way the siblings manage to communicate with one another is to use the voices of characters from childhood. But it doesn’t land with the weirdo brilliance of an Andrew Bujalski film, and unless you’re super into theatre kid giggles, it will grate and test you.

Ultimately, this is a middle-class screwball trying to land somewhere in the Gerwig camp, the question is, should anyone even try to that anymore? It’s more moving than expected, but too chintzy and ultimately vacant in the wrong way to land. ★★

Reality ★★★★

And then on in the rain we make our way to the Zoo Palast area for tonight’s world premiere of Reality

Photo: Seaview, 2 Sq Ft and Berlinale.

Sydney Sweeney is at the heart of this single room masterpiece: reminding us that first and foremost she is a great actor.

The revelatory nature of the performance is matched by the magnitude of the real life events the story is based around: the story of Reality Winner (an ironically apt name) who was a U.S. intelligence operative, ex-Air Force member and NSA translator was given the harshest ever sentence for leaking of government information to the media. Adapted from her own off-Broadway play Is This A Room, the movie takes its dialogue directly from a 107-minute audio transcript recorded on June 3, 2017 in her home. What unfolds is a catastrophic interrogative game of cat and mouse.

Set in Reality’s apartment, the film slowly gravitates from domestic set court-room drama to political thriller/post-truth horror. The excruciating and queasy FBI agents feign empathy but Sweeny’s incredible range outguns them with every emotion, reaction, micro-reaction and facial expression. It is a testament to the film that most viewers know the outcome – but in her directorial debut Tina Satter shines a light on the banality of injustice.

Make no mistake… Reality is perhaps one of the best films we have caught so far. ★★★★

EFM Diary – Day 2

Journalist and filmmaker Ben Knight is at the Berlinale trying to sell his documentary. Here’s his second update from the European Film Market.

Five coffees into the day, with the tinnitus of high-tension hustle ringing around the Gropius-Bau, I realise that it no longer makes any difference whether the film is any good or not. Now all I can do is sell. Much chat, trying to steer small talk into slightly more serious small talk, making vague plans, imagining what it would be like to make those plans concrete. Everyone is nice, the rejections are charming. And there always more options – other distributors, other sales agents, “boutique” film festivals. So many email addresses to send my screener to.

It turns out there’s an entire sector designed to make money from the hopes and dreams of film-makers. There are internet platforms with special “Gold” status pay services for festivals (“50% off entry fees – free submission protection!”) there are documentary maker associations to join for a fee so you get a newsletter with special contacts.

Five coffees into the day, I realise that it no longer makes any difference whether the film is any good or not.

Do not get disheartened, one nice woman at a distribution company stand says. There have been many great films that have found no audience. She looks at my flyer. “When I see that picture, it looks like it’s going to be one of those ‘man-goes-round-the-world-on-a-bicycle-into-the-wilderness’ films,” she says. “They were really fashionable about ten years ago.”

“But it’s definitely NOT one of those into-the-wilderness films,” I protest. “I hate those films.”

“That’s not the point,” she says. “The point is: Films get shown if they find their moment. This is a business. What you need to do is this: Figure out what other films are like your film…”

“My film is like no other film! It is unique! That’s why it’s good!”

“Whatever. Figure out what other films are like your film, and find out how much money they made. And then go to distributors and say look: You too can make this much money.”

Real advice can be brutal.

Berlinale day three: A mixed bag

We hauled up to the Akademie der Kunst in the rain, a beautiful slice of brutalist Berlin and after a little scramble, everyone was ready for the opening Encounters film, Tatiana Huezo’s El Eco.

This documentary moves in a slow pace with a Tarkovskyian palette – a story of folklore and resilience. The film’s most enchanting elements come in the first half in which the children are the guiding force. It poses more suggestions than questions; a meditation on labour and tradition with breathtaking cinematography. However, although this pastoral documentary was executed perfectly in parts, we didn’t have enough time to let all its wonderful settings and scenes unspool. With Encounter’s opening kicking off a tad later than planned, we committed our first and hopefully last cardinal sin: leaving a film three quarters of the way through. Father forgive us: I’m not sure how many hail marys are on the cards after having to not so subtly sneak off to make the next screening of the day. 

Photo: Triptych Pictures and Vertigo Productions

The Survival of Kindness ★★★

We start in the middle of the desert, with BlackWoman (played by Mwajemi Hussein) left to die in a cage. The Survival of Kindness is a subversive slice of aboriginal apocalypticism: an ambient piece where the absence of violent retribution and the dignified quietude gives the film a singularity and substance away from the recent race/colonial revenge works such as The Nightingale and Sweet County. Taking a holistically humanist approach to the horrors of the world and what lies beyond – where the need to survive outweighs revenge.   

Things are a bit atemporal and anachronistic, without any backstory and very little dialogue this is an observational mise-en-scene about an end of times that is not-so-around-the-corner. It’s a bit like a lite version of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Detailing an everyday survivalist under persecution, the work is a testament to her persistence and perseverance: yet repeatedly translated on screen – these small acts unfortunately lose their dramatic potency becoming a bit mundane and arbitrary. All in all: the Berlinale Main Competition opener is a bit all over the place but worth the watch. The Survival of Kindness’s strengths come from a satisfying albeit misanthropic ending and the lead performance. Mwajemi Hussein’s gentle stoicism and unassuming grit was akin to the protagonist of J.M Coetzee’s The Life and Times of Michael K.  ★★★

One Day We Will Tell Each Other Everything ★★★★

After a quick phone charge and wine we found our way back to the Berlin Palast for the much anticipated premiere of Emily Atef’s competition runner One Day We Will Tell Each Other Everything.

This sensual adaptation of Daniela Krien’s novel, set shortly after the fall of the wall, follows nineteen year old Maria (played with profound melancholic yearning by Marlene Burow). She’s an inwardly lost working class village girl, living on a farm with her boyfriend Johannes (Cedric Eich), an aspiring photographer who can’t wait to leave for art school in the West. Maria shares the daily chores of the farm with her boyfriend’s mother (Silke Bodenbender) but spends most days with her head in her poetry and philosophy books.

Soon forbidden love comes by the way of Henner (Felix Kramer), a brooding farmer known throughout the village but exuding a sense of mystery which draws Maria in. What happens next is transformations; childhood to womanhood, family relationships once broken by history and change in a country at large. Like all best erotism in film, the exploration of sexual desire and its dangerous dynamics is at its most tense with off screen suggestion just as much as the obsessive fantasies we see on screen. In the ‘current climate’ I’m sure this film will be one of the competition’s most discussed and debated – Atef gets straight to the nitty gritty in her exploration of power and ‘age gaps’. But this is not a political piece or an Erotic Thriller and Atef is not out to comment on such topics (its 1990s rural East Germany setting lends a hand at taking the viewer away from the zeitgeist and into a wholly immersive universe all of its own; these thoughts didn’t cross my mind until I left the cinema.)

Instead this is a beguiling and intense film, with a great supporting cast, a striking score and glistening film grain; a dreamy slice of realism laced in memory reminiscent of Éric Rohmer’s summertime heat and Agnes Varda’s Le Bonheur. Atef has achieved a tricky feat, and done so with elegance, style and depth. A highlight so far, four solid stars that would be a knockout five if there was a little chopped off the run time. ★★★★

Photo: IMAGO / Xinhua
  • Click here to see the Berlinale’s full programme

Berlinale day two: Ticket limbo

The Berlinale ticket queue.

6:45 am –  Like zombies shot out of a cannon, we rise: one-foot in our dreams, the other in the Berlinale ticket queue.

We join the virtual waiting room: “Due to high demand it is not possible to log in, please wait your turn to log in”. This ritual is fair, it keeps things streamlined and simple (making sure the press can’t book too far in advance) but it feels a bit like Groundhog Day meets a Glastonbury ticket. There’s a catharsis found in this ticket limbo, a bizarre way to get your hit of serotonin – very millennial. In the end, it wasn’t too bad: by 7:15am we were all booked up. Today launches the Competition section for the Golden Bear and we were lucky enough to grab tickets for two films in Competition (The Survival of Kindness & Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything) as well as and an interesting looking Mexican one El Eco from Encounters. If there’ time, maybe we’ll even fit in a wee trip over to a Forum Expanded Exhibition. Reviews coming your way tomorrow! 

10:36 amAs the size of the programme keeps growing, there is simply too much for anyone to see, which is why it’s good to chat with colleagues and see what they’re interested in. Last night we met with fellow Exberliner Ben Knight to discuss how he’s getting on selling his film to the European Film Market and compare notes on the films we’re looking forward to. A varied palette today: Mexican, German and Australian cinema. Check back soon for more.  

European Film Market: Day One

Photo: Ben Knight

How to sell a film (when you don’t have a clue) Journalist and filmmaker Ben Knight is at the Berlinale trying to flog his documentary. Here’s his update from the European Film Market.

It follows my encounters with preppers, bunker-dwellers, climate-doomers, and others who are coming to terms with the End of Everything

There are too many films, and I’ve done all this the wrong way round. One thing you’re definitely not supposed to do when you make a film is just go ahead and make it before you know where you’re going to sell it. And yet: that is my predicament. As my friend Howard put it, If I’d known what I was doing I wouldn’t have done it. It’s the doing that made the film. 

Day 1 of the European Film Market has taught me some hard lessons. They say the gladiator plans his strategy in the arena, and my strategy is just bare bones: To get anyone who has any influence at all in the “movie industry” to watch my recently-completed documentary, We’re All Going To Die. I have no way of judging, but I think it’s a decent film (I’ve definitely seen worse!), it’s about something contemporary and relevant (doom), and it touches deep universal fears: It follows my encounters with preppers, bunker-dwellers, climate-doomers, and others who are coming to terms with the End of Everything. 

I don’t see myself pitching to an exec over a mirrorful of coke (that’s probably what they do)

The EFM is, on the face of it, the ideal place to attempt this. While others are having fun watching movies at the Berlinale, people with lanyards bustle through the magnificent edifice of the Martin-Gropius-Bau off Potsdamer Platz and make deals: Producers try to “connect with” sales agents, sales agents “reach out” to distributors. They are surrounded by all the paraphernalia of a trade fair: Sippy cups, info-stands with bowls of gummi bears and branded pens, all that jazz. I haven’t seen many other filmmakers wandering around clutching flyers and a comprehensive info-sheet about their movie, but I had to start somewhere. I did try to come prepared: My laptop has a clip of the movie cued up, and I have headphones readily at hand.

I didn’t have a film then! How can I sell nothing?

I am not what you’d call a natural hustler or buttonholer of strangers. I don’t really see myself pitching to an exec over a mirrorful of coke (that’s probably what they do), but at least I know how to interview people. And what I learned today (from a lovely woman who hid her pity well, and yet had many good ideas for people I should talk to) was that I should have done all this three years ago, when I was still making the film. But I didn’t have a film then! How can I sell nothing? Tis a confounding paradox and no mistake.

On the plus side, the young chap from one of the sales agents I spoke to loved the flyer.

Tomorrow: I meet the documentary specialist at German Films – the German government’s film industry promoter. Onwards!

Photo: Florence-Scott Anderton

Berlinale day one: Press passes, jury and She Came To Me

So here we have it: the Berlinale strikes back.

Photo: Florence-Scott Anderton

The international crowd have arrived. Kristen Stewart and her jury cohort have given their press speech and today marks the official start of the 73rd Berlinale. As Stewart told us in the opening press conference, “we have never stopped telling each other stories. There’s a desperate need in all of us to create something, that’s something vital that will never go away.”

To rewind slightly – we got a sneak peak of things getting set up on Tuesday, when we went to collect our passes and getting to see the Berlinale Special Gala at a press screening last night. 

Things were already looking red and luscious (most apt for Valentines day) as the technical teams were finishing off the glamorous layout on Marlene Dietrich Platz.

We rolled up in the freezing cold, and I’m not going to lie it did feel good to skip past the heaving queues and head for the press pick up booth. Smooth sailing and ready to go. 

Photo: Florence-Scott Anderson

Today marks the official take off, but last night we got an exclusive look at Rebecca Miller’s She Came To Me (2023) which launches the Berlinale Special Gala at the festival officially today.

Given the weightier issues which are going to be explored over the next fortnight – this was is a perfect, easy way to kick things off

I was pleasantly surprised by this picture. She Came To Me follows an opera genius in creative crisis – but this light-hearted romantic comedy brings in a diverse and eccentric cast of characters: an OCD psychoanalyst in a religious crisis; a love-addicted tug boat owner; a right-wing stenographer with a love for historical reenactments.

They’re all brought together by a young couple fighting prejudice and trying to go to college at the same time. Ultimately, this film is all about how chance encounters can change the direction of our lives in an instant. Touching on contemporary US politics in a breezy manner, it is woke but without being on the nose, the characters are charming and the colours and cinematography a joy. It got plenty of laughs from the press audience and the strength of the film is precisely its lightness: Miller’s characters never go too deep.

I’d give this a solid 3 stars and – given the weightier issues which are going to be explored over the next fortnight – this was is a perfect, easy way to kick things off.