Posters at film festivals are essential tools. At the start of a festival, faced with a catalogue of often hyperbolic, plot-heavy synopses and an unending stream of black and white stills, festival films tend to blur into each other, flattening the playing field. You might flip through a catalogue looking for names you recognize, or maybe regional cinemas you are drawn to, but beyond that choosing films often becomes an exercise in reading between the lines. Posters bring a new dimension to the experience: a pop of color and an encapsulation of a filmmaker’s vision into a single eye-catching image. Of course, a poster can be as misleading as a craftily written synopsis. On top of that, festival posters are often an after-thought, hastily thrown together as the film is rushing to meet its submission deadline in post. Many of them will eventually be superseded by a more carefully designed theatrical release poster, although then commercial interests come into play, muddying the waters. At a festival a poster just needs to stand out from the crowd, not try to tell the whole story.
Many of the films in the International Forum of New Cinema, otherwise known as the Forum section of the Berlin Film Festival, won’t see a theatrical release. The Forum, which encompasses “avant garde, experimental works, essays, long-term observations, political reportage and yet-to-be-discovered cinematic landscapes,” bills itself as “the most daring section of the Berlinale.”
I wasn’t at the Berlin Film Festival this year so I can’t tell you to what extent these posters from the Forum encapsulate their films or are merely a red herring. But I have selected the posters that would at least have turned my head and pointed me in the right direction. The poster for Depth Two, above, is definitely intriguing and stands out as one of the few posters to use what seems to be illustration. We seem to be looking at either a buried body or a cave painting, but it is enough to turn your head for an instant. The catalogue description fills in the blanks: “1999: While NATO was bombing Yugoslavia, a truck containing 53 dead bodies plunged into the Danube near the border with Romania. No enquiries were carried out. Previously, in Suva Reka, Kosovo: Serbian police herd villagers together. A woman experiences terrible things, bodies disappear into remote mass graves. People as little more than mere matter.”
Many of these posters are little more than a striking image with some judiciously placed type: a slightly grander version of the still in the catalogue or on the website. But they catch your eye and stick in your mind, so that the next time someone mentions a film they admire (or otherwise) your synapses snap back to that poster, adding another layer to your conception of something you haven’t yet seen.
Many thanks to the Berlinale Forum for providing these posters, which I present below in alphabetical order.