Not only is the Berlin International Film Festival - the Berlinale - celebrating its 60th edition this year from February 11 through 21, but the International Forum of New Cinema, the section of the Berlinale known to most simply as the Forum, marks its 40th. The party began in the summer with an outstanding retrospective (see Artforum) and carries on next month with a quite a promising lineup of 34 films. Also announced today: the festival's opening and closing films.
Let's start with those. In 2007, Wang Quan'an won the Golden Bear for Tuya's Marriage and the world premiere of his latest, Tuan Yuan (Apart Together), will officially open the 2010 edition of the Berlinale - and compete for another Bear. From today's press release: "Tuan Yuan tells the story of a great love, while depicting the tragedy of a divided country. Decades have passed since the one-time soldier Liu Yansheng, who fled from Shanghai to Taiwan in 1949 to escape Mao Tse-tung's troops, has seen the love of his life. Their reunion rekindles old emotions. The film stars Lu Yan, Ling Feng, Xu Cai Gen and Mo Xiaoqi."
Closing the festival will be Yoji Yamada's Otouto (About Her Brother), screening out of competition. Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow's Chris MaGee notes that it's a remake of Kon Ichikawa's 1960 original in which a pair of siblings deal with the younger brother's falling ill with tuberculosis. "The real buzz surrounding Yamada's Otouto is that it marks the first time in a decade that the 77-year-old director has made a film set in the present day," he writes and points to a teaser. In November, Nippon Cinema posted a full trailer.
To the Forum. Cargo co-editor Ekkehard Knörer has a few recommendations, though, of course, he, like everyone else, is barred from writing full-blown reviews of the world premieres just yet. Still: Angela Schanelec's Orly is her "most open film yet" and "does great things with space (the airport that gives the film its name) and the characters in it." Back in April, Bénédicte Prot reported for Cineuropa that it stars Natacha Régnier and Bruno Todeschini and that it "retraces two hours in the life of the airport and centres on four characters who are waiting for their respective flights in the same terminal, against a backdrop of imminent disaster." Also in April, Arte posted a video report on the shoot.
The latest issue of Cargo features a report from the set of Thomas Arslan's In the Shadows, "the story of a robber released from prison who is preparing one last job whilst trying to evade a police officer who is corrupt through and through" (Berlinale) by Lukas Foerster (who blogs today about Fassbinder's 1971 television production Rio das Mortes) and the first two issues have featured reports on Dominik Graf's eight-hour Russian-mafia-in-Berlin series, Im Angesicht des Verbrechens. Cargo's also posted a video interview. The Berlinale: "By appropriating classic elements of the gangster drama, Arslan and Graf represent the trend for using the rules of genre cinema in an unconventional way."
Ekkehard also recommends the Canadian documentary La belle visite by Jean-François Caissy about life in a home for the elderly set up in what was once a motel.
Among directors returning to the Forum are Yang Yonghi (Dear Pyongyang) with Sona, the Other Myself and Sharon Lockhart (Lunch Break) with Double Tide.
Back to that press release: "As part of its special screenings, the section will be showing a three film homage to director Shimazu Yasujiro, a director who is still largely unknown in this part of the world and who is seen as one of the modernisers of Japanese pre-war cinema." Among other special screenings are Nicolas Philibert's Nénette (Film Annex posts an interview in French in which Philibert discusses his doc about a 40-year-old orangutan in captivity) and Glauber Rocha's Antonio das Mortes (O Dragão da Maldade contra o Santo Guerreiro, 1969).
And this is just scratching the surface, of course. Look for reviews, first impressions and roundups when coverage begins in earnest in a few short weeks.
Image: Philip Scheffner's The Day of the Sparrow, which the German Documentary Association describes as a "political nature film" in which the "methods of ornithology" are applied to the study of war.