Berlin 2018: Documentary Overview

The 68th Berlinale

February 15-25

More than 80 new and recent documentaries are included in a lineup of nearly 250 features in Germany’s A-list event.


Once again, nonfiction is woefully under-represented in the Competition, with the sole documentary of two dozen titles being Markus Imhoof’s ELDORADO, which explores the dark consequences of refugee aid efforts. Docs fare slightly better in the Berlinale Special, representing six of the nineteen offerings, including Murray Cummings’ SONGWRITER, a portrait of musician Ed Sheeran’s creative process; and Ulli Lommel’s AMERICA LAND OF THE FREEKS, which follows the prolific German filmmaker on a roadtrip across Trump’s America.


Nearly half of the Panorama strand is made up of documentaries, including: Reem Saleh’s WHAT COMES AROUND, which profiles a Cairo collective community; Luiz Bolognesi’s EX SHAMAN, about a Christian Amazonian native seeking to restore his people’s ways; Karim Aïnouz’s CENTRAL AIRPORT THF, about the refugee community sheltered in Berlin’s Templehof Airport; Jan Gebert’s WHEN THE WAR COMES, an inside look at a Slovak paramilitary training group; Leilah Weinraub’s SHAKEDOWN, which revisits LA’s lesbian underground strip club scene of the early 2000s; Bojina Panayotova’s I SEE RED PEOPLE, the director’s personal reckoning with her family’s past in Communist Bulgaria; Maria Augusta Ramos’ THE TRIAL, about the political tumult that led to the impeachment of Brazil’s president; and Jordan Schiele’s THE SILK AND THE FLAME, which follows gay man back to his family’s village in rural China.


Docs also figure heavily in the Forum, among them: Sergei Loznitsa’s VICTORY DAY, a chronicle of the annual celebration of the Red Army’s defeat of the Nazis in Berlin; Kazuhiro Soda’s INLAND SEA, a portrait of the vanishing culture of a small Japanese fishing village; Midi Z’s 14 APPLES, which follows a businessman’s temporary stint as a Buddhist monk; Ruth Beckermann’s THE WALDHEIM WALTZ, a revisitation of the controversy around Austrian diplomat Kurt Waldheim’s Nazi past; Alexander Abaturov’s THE SON, following the training of Russian army recruits in Siberia; Brian M Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky’s INTERCHANGE, a look at a Montreal roadway and those around it; Robert Fischer’s FILM BEYOND CINEMA: THE DUMPSTER KID EXPERIMENT AND OTHER UTOPIAS, which explores legendary rediscovered film experiments by auteur Edgar Reitz; and Irene Lusztig’s YOURS IN SISTERHOOD, which bridges issues relevant to feminism in the 1970s with today.


Many of the feature-length pieces in the Forum Expanded are also nonfiction or hybrid in nature, including: Jerry Tartaglia’s ESCAPE FROM RENTED ISLAND: THE LOST PARADISE OF JACK SMITH, an essay about the work of the iconic underground queer filmmaker; Ben Rivers and Ben Russell’s THE RARE EVENT, ostensibly a chronicle of a philosophical forum of ideas; Adam Kaplan and Gilad Baram’s THE DISAPPEARED, about a censored action film made by the Israeli Army; and Siska’s IN THE RUINS OF BAALBECK STUDIOS, on Lebanon’s lost film archive.


German cinema is part of Perspektive Deutsches Kino, including Zita Erffa’s THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO WITH YOUR LIFE, about the filmmaker’s brother, a member of an ultraconservative religious order, and Nora Fingscheidt’s WITHOUT THIS WORLD, a portrait of a German Mennonite community in Argentina; as well as the LOLA strand, which includes Gwendolin Weisser and Patrick Allgaier’s WEIT. THE STORY OF A JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD, about the filmmakers’ nearly four-year spontaneous travels, and Jakob Preuss’ WHEN PAUL CAME OVER THE SEA, about the filmmaker’s relationship with a Cameroon refugee to Europe.


Additional programming strands include the youth-focused Generation, with Christy Garland’s WHAT WALAA WANTS, about a young Palestinian woman’s dreams of becoming a police officer, and Janet van den Brand’s CERES, which follows children of generational farmers; and food-focused Culinary Cinema, with Emily Railsback’s OUR BLOOD IS WINE, on efforts to bring back ancient Georgian winemaking culture; Jacopo Quadri’s LORELLO E BRUNELLO, about twin farmers struggling to care for their Tuscan estate; and Gilles de Maistre’s THE QUEST OF ALAIN DUCASSE, an intimate look at the life of the celebrated French chef.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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