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This week at the kino: Epic sci-fi & vital docs

Our film editor guides you through a strong week of releases, including Dune and Herr Bachmann und seine Klasse, and has the lowdown on two Berlin film fests worth your time.

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It’s a very strong week for new releases, with two 5-star films to choose from.

The first is the highly anticipated Dune. We saw the sci-fi opus at the Venice Film Festival for its premiere, and it provokes an impressive sense of awe, to say the least. It is a feast for the retinas and the ears, which cries out for the biggest screen possible, with a sound system that does the drum-heavy score and the gripping sound design justice. Much ink has been spilt over Warner Bros’ HBO Max distribution arrangement, which stipulates that the film’s theatrical opening will coincide with the streaming release. Director Denis Villeneuve has expressed his disappointment in this day-and-date model by describing watching Dune on a small screen akin to “driv(ing) a speedboat in your bathtub”, going on to state in his less tub-centric director’s statement that “the big screen is not just another format, it is at the core of the cinematographic language”. No disagreement here: If there’s a big screen experience to have this year, make it Dune.

Our second glowing recommendation of the week is a much smaller affair, but with a huge heart: Maria Speth’s Herr Bachmann und seine Klasse (Mr Bachmann And His Class). Winner of this year’s Silver Bear Jury Prize and the Berlinale Audience Award, it’s an expansive yet wonderfully intimate observational documentary that will delight fans of Laurent Cantet’s Palme d’Or-winning Entre Les Murs, and answers the question: “What if Frederick Wiseman had directed School Of Rock?” It’s a powerfully moving exercise in empathy that focuses on the German educational system, highlights systemic injustices, and addresses the importance of compassion as well as the essential place of multi-ethnicism in society. Don’t miss out, and we recommend you book tickets for a Special Screening on this Saturday at Delphi Film Palast, with the presence of Berlinale Co-Director Mariette Rissenbeek and director Maria Speth.

Rounding off this week’s releases is another Berlinale title and a horror soft-reboot: Christian Schwochow’s Je Suis Karl is a timely political thriller that doesn’t do justice to its excellent first half, but is still worth a watch; Spiral: From The Book Of Saw is a very average addition to the Saw saga that doesn’t deserve to rank high on your “Must See” list.

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David France’s Welcome To Chechnya is screening at the HRFFB.

There’s plenty going on events-wise too:

The Human Rights Film Festival Berlin starts today and lasts until the September 25. Once again, HRFFB aims to shine a light on social injustice and raise awareness of human rights violations through documentary filmmaking. This year’s fourth edition returns as a hybrid on-and-offline event and presents 40 documentaries on the current state of human rights around the world. You can read our full festival preview here.

It’s also worth noting in your calendars that the Favourites Film Festival kicks off next week, starting on 22nd and closing on 26th. After a one-year break, Favourites is back with its 10th edition, showcasing international festival favourites at City Kino Wedding. The festival handpicks films that have won audience awards at film festivals from around the globe. This year’s opening film is definitely our standout title: the 2019 Venice-premiering Un Fils (A Son) by Mehdi M. Barsaoui, an intense and stirring family drama that is a must-watch (22/09 at 20:00). Other films to look out for this year include Borga, which recently screened at this year’s Achtung Film Festival (23/09 at 21:00, with the film team in attendance), and look out for the excellent Shorts Night on Saturday, an evening of the best short films ranging from animation to features, via the documentary genre (25/09, 22:00). For more information, check out their full line-up here.

There we have it. Happy screenings all and see you next week!