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Berlinale 2011. First 8 Films

Ralph Fiennes's adaptation of Shakespeare's Coriolanus is among six world premieres in the first round of Competition titles in the Berlinale 2011 lineup. Miranda July's The Future, screening first at Sundance, is an international premiere and, as previously announced, Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit will open the festival on February 10. Here's what we know so far about this batch of eight films...

Fiennes's directorial debut stars himself in the title role, Gerard Butler as Tullus Aufidius, Brian Cox as Menenius, James Nesbitt as Tribune Sicinius, Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia and Jessica Chastain as Virgilia. Shooting in Serbia, "Fiennes has set his film about warring tribes, biting political ruthlessness and a mother's ambition for her son, in modern times and some of the scenes look like the end of an empire," reported Baz Bamigboye in the Daily Mail back in May. "That's thanks to cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, who worked on the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Paul Greengrass's Green Zone." We've got a couple of months to brush up on the play and might as well start with the Wikipedia entry, a portal to the text in various formats and secondary sources.

Seyfi Teoman's Bizim Büyük Çaresizliğimiz (Our Grand Despair) features İlker Aksum, Fatih Al, Güneş Sayın, Baki Davrak, Taner Birsel and Mehmet Ali Nuroğlu. Cannes has a synopsis and a statement from the director because the film was one of Cinéfondation's projects in 2009: "Our Grand Despair is an adaptation from Ankara-based author Baris Bicakci's novel with the same title. While the story might come across like a typical love triangle, Bicakci's approach is quite unique and delicate which stands as the main source of inspiration for me. The feeling that dominates the story is a distinct blend of the melancholy of the past’s unrepeatable nature with sorrows of impossible love, and an affection that embraces all inadequacy and imperfection. For me, the main questions in this film are: 'Are there any borders in relationships? If there are, where are they to be found?' Although I can't give definitive answers to these questions, I feel intuitively that they have the potential to provoke various answers, which I believe, will enrich my film to a great extent."

Jonathan Sagall's Lipstikka stars Clara Khoury, Nataly Attiya, Moran Rosenblatt and Ziv Weiner. Back in January, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Israel Film Fund had backed away from supporting the film because it "compares the occupation of the West Bank to the Holocaust." Sagall, "who starred in the popular 1978 Israeli film Eskimo Limon," originally intended to portray his mother's experiences during the Holocaust and "received funding for the project five years ago and later decided to transport his mother's tale to Ramallah, where instead of the Nazis, two girls struggle against the Israeli occupation."

Andres Veiel's Wer wenn nicht wir (If not us, who?) features August Diehl, Lena Lauzemis and Alexander Fehling. From german films: "Bernward Vesper [Diehl], son of Nazi writer Will Vesper, meets his great love in the early 1960s: Gudrun Ensslin. They swear absolute and undying love, joining the student rebellion to unearth the truth behind West Germany's facade. Bernward, a publisher, makes good money from the era's radical chic, seeking enlightenment on endless drug trips. For Gudrun, seeing through the facade is not enough; she wants to take action and turn the world upside down. They have a child and seem to become closer again. But then another man comes along — Andreas Baader, more unequivocal and forceful than Bernward, and all three are caught up in the force of a story from which there will be no turning back.... Andres Veiel, who is perhaps best known for his award-winning Black Box Germany, based Wer wenn nicht wir on the non-fiction book by historian Gerd Koenen, Vesper, Ensslin, Baader – Primal Scenes from German Terrorism. Veiel, who also spent several years developing and writing the script, talked to over 30 contemporary eyewitnesses and conducted original archive research."

Victoria Mahoney's Yelling to the Sky stars Zoë Kravitz, Gabourey Sidibe and Tim Blake Nelson. Mahoney is one of Filmmaker's "25 New Faces" this year and told Scott Macaulay this summer that "the seeds of Yelling to the Sky, her powerful, emotionally nuanced debut feature about a New York City teenager growing up in a mixed-race family, go back 10 years. 'I had seen Chekhov's Three Sisters many times, and I loved and identified with it. I thought I'd do a contemporary version with mixed-race girls. Cubby [Hubert Selby Jr] helped me a lot with the early drafts, and the script went from something I wanted to do to something I needed to do.' Mahoney further developed the script at the Sundance Labs and then focused on getting it made. 'I removed all distractions, from the script and also my life. I got over a fear of financial insecurity. I said to myself, "I will live on people's couches." I was homeless through principal photography and most of postproduction. I don't recommend it, but it shouldn't stop you either.'"

The Playlist knows all about Miranda July's followup to Me and You and Everyone We Know, The Future: "Apart from starring July (naturally), it also stars Hamish Linklater (Fantastic Four). We read the script months and months ago and the film is pretty much about a 30-something couple in distress, or at least slowly unraveling, due to their own capricious wanderings and self-involved inclinations. We gave that script a pretty harsh thumbs down, however we did note that it was an early-ish draft, and more to the point, July's films are all about those emotive and ineffable atmospheric elements that are hard to translate onto the page. We still had a lot of hope as she's an inventive filmmaker and her debut employed a dreamy and naive optimism that most of us adored."


PINA - Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost from neueroadmovies on Vimeo.

When Pina Bausch, the great choreographer and dancer, died in the summer of 2009, Wim Wenders had already begun work on Pina, a 3D documentary on her work with the Tanztheater Wuppertal. He and the company both were determined to complete the project: "We will not let the opportunity and privilege pass to record in 3D the choreographies and dance compositions rehearsed and overseen by Pina Bausch. Her critical and loving eye is still very present in these works." Premieres out of competition.

As for True Grit, we're currently tracking reviews and more right here.

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