Berlin 2021: Documentary Overview

The 71st Berlinale

March 1-5 (industry)

Germany’s world-class film event presents its scaled-down line-up of approximately 100 features – docs or hybrids making up a third – for industry online over the next few days, with in-person screenings of these selections planned for the public this June.

Among the offerings:

Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios
Set on the mean streets of Mexico city, fiction and documentary intertwine in this portrayal of the life of a police officer.

Director: Maria Speth
In a German city with a complex history of both excluding and integrating foreigners, a charismatic teacher provides his pupils, who all come from different countries originally, with the key to feeling at home in Germany and becoming citizens of the world.

Berlinale Special

Director: Aliaksei Paluyan
Maryna, Pavel, and Denis belong to an underground theatre group in Minsk, Belarus. In the course of the 2020 presidential elections, they take part in peaceful mass protests, and narrowly escape arrest and torture.

Director: Dan Lindsay, TJ Martin
A wealth of never-before-seen footage, audio tapes, personal photos, and new interviews, including with the singer herself, offers an unvarnished and dynamic account of the life and career of music icon Tina Turner. 

Who We Were
Director: Marc Bauder
We may think that we’re simply not capable of understanding the increasingly complex problems of our planet, but the charismatic scientists featured in this film are searching for practical ways to save our world. 


Director: Fern Silva
Astronomers plan to build the world’s largest telescope on Hawaii’s most sacred and revered mountain, Mauna Kea. Based on ancient Polynesian navigation, the arrival of Christian missionaries, and the observatory’s ability to capture the origins of the universe, this project surveys the influence of settler colonialism, the search for intelligent life, and the discovery of new worlds as we peer into our own planet’s existence.

Director: Alice Diop
Encounters on a rail line crossing north to south thru Paris and its outskirts: A cleaning lady, a scrap merchant, a writer, a nurse, a follower of hunts, and the filmmaker herself.


Dirty Feathers
Director: Carlos Alfonso Corral
On the streets of border towns El Paso and Ciudad Juárez reveal people living without a home.

Director: Monika Treut
20 years after her film GENDERNAUTS, Monika Treut seeks out the pioneers of the transgender movement back then to find out how their lives and their activism have evolved, how they have grown into their identities, and how their energy continues to have an impact today.

The Last Forest
Director: Luiz Bolognesi
Alternating between documentary observation and staged sequences, a revealing look at the Indigenous community of the Yanomami, depicting their threatened natural environment in the Amazon rainforest.

Miguel’s War
Director: Eliane Raheb
After fleeing war and repression 37 years ago, a gay man returns to Lebanon where he traces hidden longings, unrequited love, and tormenting feelings of guilt.

North By Current
Director: Angelo Madsen Minax
In this personal essay about motherhood, grieving, and transgender masculinity, the unexplained death of his niece leads the director back to his family.


The First 54 Years: An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation
Director: Avi Mograbi
An account of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

From Where They Stood
Director: Christophe Cognet
A handful of prisoners in WWII camps risked their lives to take clandestine photographs and document the hell the Nazis were hiding from the world. In the vestiges of the camps, director Christophe Cognet retraces the footsteps of these courageous men and women in a quest to unearth the circumstances and the stories behind their photographs.

Night Nursery
Director: Moumouni Sanou
Every evening in a popular area of the city of Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, Mrs Coda welcomes the children of prostitutes at her home.

A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces
Director: Shengze Zhu
A portrait of urban spaces along the Yangtze River in the city of Wuhan, an evolving landscape that is continuously sculpted by nature and dramatically altered by roaring machines and rising infrastructure.


From the Wild Sea
Director: Robin Petré
Along the raw and windy coastline of England, a wide network of volunteers are constantly ready to rescue coastal wildlife from oil, plastic and storms – but the animals struggle against their human surroundings, and the well-meaning volunteers find themselves powerless as they watch the winter storms intensifying and the conditions for the animals worsening.

Last Days at Sea
Director: Venice Atienza
Reyboy’s world is the sparkling ocean, the hidden treasures on the long coast, the taste of honey rice – but the young Filipino’s life is about to change forever.

Perspektive Deutsches Kino

Instructions for Survival
Director: Yana Ugrekhelidze
Alexander’s transgender identity means he is obliged to lead a life of secrecy in his home country.

Keep Moving
Director: Salar Ghazi
Nine dancers, facing the end of East Germany, had to decide: Stay with their friends and family or seek freedom in the West.

When a Farm Goes Aflame
Director: Jide Tom Akinleminu
A tale about the filmmaker’s mother and brothers from other mothers.

Leave a comment

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.