Riz Ahmed in Mogul Mowgli by Bassam Tariq
Riz Ahmed in Mogul Mowgli by Bassam Tariq

Directors Karim Aïnouz, Andrea Štaka and Francisco Márquez as well as the actors Ben Whishaw, Sandra Hüller and Stellan Skarsgård all present new films in the Berlinale Panorama program of the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival.

Where are the borders between one’s origins, homeland and the idea of home? This question is addressed in many films in the lineup, including the partly autobiographically inspired works of three German directors: Faraz Shariat’s Futur Drei (No Hard Feelings), Uisenma Borchu’s Schwarze Milch (Black Milk) and Visar Morina’s Exil (Exile). Matias Mariani’s debut film, Cidade Pássaro (Shine Your Eyes), follows Nigerian musician Amadi into the high-rise canyons of São Paulo. In search of his missing brother, he immerses himself in Brazil’s African diaspora. In Mogul Mowgli, young British rapper Zed tries to find his place in the world, torn as he is between an international music career and the traditions of his conservative Pakistani parents. Riz Ahmed shines in this debut film by Bassam Tariq who co-wrote the screenplay with his actor. In Nardjes A., director Karim Aïnouz, whose work has already won multiple international awards, sets off in search of his Algerian roots. He becomes caught up in the peaceful protests of the “Revolution of Smiles” directed against Algeria’s long-term president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Filmed entirely on an iPhone, Aïnouz’s documentary focuses on the young Nardjes and her activism in a time of political upheaval.

The earth’s exploitation and destruction at the hands of humans is another key focus in the program, in Georgis Grigorakis’ Digger, for example. As diggers roll in and construction cranes arrive, the machinations of an oil company divide a community in the Greek provinces. Fernando Segtowick’s documentary, O reflexo do lago (Amazon Mirror), portrays the depletion of Amazonia in haunting black and white images. The Brazilian director takes the construction of the Tucuruí reservoir as the starting point for an investigation into the past and present exploitation of the region. The Italian drama Semina il vento (Sow the Wind), by Danilo Caputo, is set near Ilva, Europe’s largest steelworks that has been poisoning Apulia’s environment for decades. Young agricultural scientist Nica is fighting to save her family’s olive grove. Against the wishes of her profit-orientated father, she searches for an ecologically sustainable solution for the centuries-old trees.

New queer cinema initially heads back into the past with Eric Steel’s Minyan, which depicts a gay coming-of-age story in the Jewish diaspora of Brooklyn in the late 1980s. In Las mil y una (One in a Thousand), Clarisa Navas’ protagonists explore the sexual realms of possibility between first love and the violent reality of social housing projects in contemporary Argentina. The long-term observational documentary Always Amber, by Lia Hietala and Hannah Reinikainen, accompanies Swedish transgender teenagers Amber and Sebastian who increasingly become the authors of their own lives.

The Berlinale Special takes audiences on a journey around the world and gives memory a special role. Memory of a life, as in the case of Golda Maria, testimony of a survivor of deportations. The documentary The American Sector recounts the journey of the parts of the Berlin Wall, which have been scattered across the USA and have now become silent witnesses to recent history.

High Ground is a western that was developed in close collaboration with the Indigenous communities of Australia. It pays homage to a territory (now strongly compromised) and to the notion that places are filled with a soul. A new generation of actors led by Choi Woo-shik (admired in Parasite) shines in Sa-nyang-eui-si-gan (Time to Hunt), a film that follows the thriller tradition.

Based on Oleg Sentsov’s eponymous play, Nomera (Numbers) is a scathing dystopia and parable. From 2014 to 2019, Oleg Sentsov was Russia’s most famous political prisoner. He co-directed in collaboration with Akhtem Seitablaiev a film that fell out of time and was made under impossible circumstances and in complete isolation.

Films in the Panorama

A l’abordage
by Guillaume Brac
with Éric Nantchouang, Salif Cissé, Édouard Sulpice, Asma Messaoudene, Ana Blagojevic
World premiere

One summer night in Paris, Félix meets Alma by chance and they get along beautifully. He decides to surprise her at the place where her family is holidaying in the south and enlists his best friend in an adventure that will not leave them quite the same.

Always Amber
by Lia Hietala, Hannah Reinikainen
World premiere / Debut film / Panorama Dokumente

Amber belongs to a queer generation which no longer wants society to dictate their identity. The teenagers proudly inhabit a spectrum of fluid identities and master their first loves and losses.

The Assistant
by Kitty Green
with Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Kristine Froseth, Makenzie Leigh
International premiere

Jane has started her dream job as a junior assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul. Her day is much like any other assistant’s, but she is soon confronted with an abusive daily routine, only to discover the true depth of the system into which she has entered.

Aufzeichnungen aus der Unterwelt (Notes from the Underworld)
by Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel
with Kurt Girk, Alois Schmutzer
World premiere / Panorama Dokumente

A love letter to Vienna’s underworld of the 1960s that is also a social portrait of post-war Austria. Viennese folk singer Kurt Girk and his friend Alois Schmutzer discuss their lives in Vienna’s criminal milieu – for which they served long prison terms.

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
by Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross
International premiere

A final binge in a closing bar on the edge of Las Vegas. With clear-sighted observation, the film allows us to share the familiarity between the regulars, creating the impression that we are sitting amongst them.

Cidade Pássaro (Shine Your Eyes)
Brazil / France
by Matias Mariani
with O. C. Ukeje, Chukwudi Iwuji, Indira Nascimento, Paulo Andre, Ike Barry
World premiere

Musician Amadi has not heard from his older brother Ikenna in a long time. He travels from Nigeria to the Brazilian metropolis of São Paulo but cannot find him. Cidade Pássaro is an enigmatic exploration operating on several levels.

Days of Cannibalism
France / South Africa / Netherlands
by Teboho Edkins
World premiere / Panorama Dokumente

Documentary meets genre cinema in this Western from today’s Lesotho, where modern pioneers of capitalism clash with local traditions, and aspiring Chinese merchants compete for supremacy with traditional Basotho cattle breeders.

Greece / France
by Georgis Grigorakis
with Vangelis Mourikis, Argyris Pantazaras
World premiere / Debut film

When Jonny visits his reclusive father Nikitas in his cabin in the woods after 20 years, the hermit ignores him. But to prevent the muddy ground from being pulled out from under their feet for profit, father and son must dig deep into it.

Eeb Allay Ooo!
by Prateek Vats
with Shardul Bhardwaj, Shashi Bhushan, Mahender Nath, Naina Sareen, Nitin Goel, Nutan Sinha
Debut film

Monkey repellers such as Anjani have an exceedingly tricky job in downtown New Delhi. With the sensitivity of a documentary and an Indian sense of humour, the film depicts the harsh life of a migrant and subtly mirrors today’s social realities.

Exil (Exile)
Germany / Belgium / Kosovo
by Visar Morina
with Mišel Matičević, Sandra Hüller, Rainer Bock, Thomas Mraz

The signs that the pharmacologist Xhafer, who is originally from Kosovo, is being bullied at work are increasing – or is it just his imagination? Exile portrays an individual caught between integration and loss of identity.

Futur Drei (No Hard Feelings)
by Faraz Shariat
with Benjamin Radjaipour, Banafshe Hourmazdi, Eidin Jalali
World premiere / Debut film

German-Iranian Parvis’s life revolves around pop culture, Grindr dates and raves. Through refugee siblings Banafshe and Amon, Parvis rediscovers his roots. A sensitive film about first love and life as a migrant in Germany.

Håp (Hope)
Norway / Sweden
by Maria Sødahl
with Andrea Bræin Hovig, Stellan Skarsgård

When Anja is diagnosed with a brain tumour, everyday life in her patchwork family implodes and her cooling relationship with her partner Tomas is faced with a new kind of reality.

I Dream of Singapore
by Lei Yuan Bin
International premiere / Panorama Dokumente

An insightful documentary about migrant workers in Southeast Asia. After an accident in Singapore, Bangladeshi Feroz gets help from a human rights organisation. This hypermodern city-state is chewing up and spitting out poor migrants to power its boom.

Jetzt oder morgen (Running on Empty)
by Lisa Weber
World premiere / Panorama Dokumente

Lisa Weber’s portrait of Claudia, who had a son when she was 15 and who now lives with him, her mother and her brother in Vienna, is an affectionate and gentle film about the passing of time, and about what goes on when nothing seems to be happening.

Kød & Blod (Wildland)
by Jeanette Nordahl
with Sandra Guldberg Kampp, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Joachim Fjelstrup, Elliott Crosset Hove, Besir Zeciri
World premiere / Debut film

After her mother’s death, Ida moves in with her aunt and cousins. Theirs is a loving family, but it soon transpires that the clan is engaged in criminal activities. A female-driven exploration of family conflict fueled by affection and cut-throat ethics.

Kotlovan (The Foundation Pit)
Russian Federation
by Andrey Gryazev
World premiere / Panorama Dokumente

A found footage film compiled from countless YouTube videos in which the people of Russia make a direct appeal to president Putin. A kaleidoscope of the mood in the country – from submissive pleas to pure rage about injustice and rampant corruption.

Las mil y una (One in a Thousand)
Argentina / Germany
by Clarisa Navas
with Sofía Cabrera, Ana Carolina Garcia, Mauricio Vila, Luis Molina
World premiere

Set in a community of project houses, Iris, a young woman with a tough past, meets Renata and feels immediately attracted to her. A tender coming-of-age film about friendship and first love in a hostile environment.

Switzerland / Croatia
by Andrea Štaka
with Marija Skaričić, Goran Navojec, Mateusz Kościukiewicz, Mirjana Karanović
World premiere

Routinely, but with dedication, Mare runs her small family’s modest household, even though a new washing machine is not the only thing that is missing. When a chance encounter rekindles her libido, she does not hold back for long.

by Eric Steel
with Samuel H. Levine, Ron Rifkin, Christopher McCann, Mark Margolis, Richard Topol
World premiere

New York in the 1980s. David, 17, who is beginning to live out his homosexuality in the East Village gay scene, gradually questions the strict rules of his Jewish community.

Mogul Mowgli
United Kingdom
by Bassam Tariq
with Riz Ahmed
World premiere

Zed, a young British rapper, is about to start his first world tour, when a crippling illness strikes him down, and he is forced to move back in with his family. He tries to find himself between an international music career and Pakistani family traditions.

Nardjes A.
Algeria / France / Germany / Brazil / Qatar
by Karim Aïnouz
World premiere / Panorama Dokumente

Accompanying activist Nardjes with his camera, Karim Aïnouz documents the youth culture, which is confidently taking to the streets for a democratic future in Algeria, whose independence their parents and grandparents have already fought.

One of These Days
Germany / USA
by Bastian Günther
with Carrie Preston, Joe Cole, Callie Hernandez
World premiere

In the Texan “Hands on a Hardbody” competition, contestants stand around a new pickup truck for days, touching it with one hand. Whoever holds out the longest wins the truck. A psychological portrait of poverty, wealth and despair.

Otac (Father)
Serbia / France / Germany / Croatia / Slovenia / Bosnia and Herzegovina
by Srdan Golubović
with Goran Bogdan, Boris Isaković, Nada Šargin
World premiere

Nikola’s children are taken away from him after social services decide that he is too poor to provide them with a decent living environment. He sets off on foot to lodge a complaint in Belgrade. A moving tale about inequality.

Greece / France / Netherlands / Bulgaria
by Siamak Etemadi
with Melika Foroutan, Shahbaz Noshir, Sofia Kokkali, Argyris Padazaras, Lena Kitsopoulou
World premiere / Debut film

Iranian mother Pari’s search for her missing son in Athens will force her on a journey to the dark corners of the city, as well as into the hidden depths of her own self.

Petite fille (Little Girl)
by Sébastien Lifshitz
World premiere / Panorama Dokumente

The touching portrait of eight-year-old Sasha, who questions her gender and in doing so, evokes the sometimes disturbing reactions of a society that is still invested in a biological boy-girl way of thinking.

O reflexo do lago (Amazon Mirror)
by Fernando Segtowick
World premiere / Debut film / Panorama Dokumente

A black and white film about the people who live near one of the world’s largest hydroelectric plants in Amazonia. In the shadow of this environmentally destructive project, they eke out involuntarily meagre lives, without electricity or infrastructure.

Schlingensief – In das Schweigen hineinschreien (Schlingensief – A Voice That Shook the Silence)
by Bettina Böhler
with Christoph Schlingensief, Margit Carstensen, Irm Hermann, Alfred Edel, Udo Kier, Sophie Rois
World premiere / Debut film / Panorama Dokumente

Using unpublished and newly digitalised archive footage and film material, Bettina Böhler has brilliantly assembled this film about the life and work of the exceptional artist Christoph Schlingensief, who died in 2010. A cinematic tour de force.

Schwarze Milch (Black Milk)
Germany / Mongolia
by Uisenma Borchu
with Gunsmaa Tsogzol, Uisenma Borchu, Terbish Demberel, Franz Rogowski
World premiere

In Uisenma Borchu’s second semi-biographical film, a young woman is searching for her roots and discovers an idiosyncratic, radical sensuality that not only transgresses Mongolian conventions but also those of the supposedly more liberal West.

Semina il vento (Sow the Wind)
Italy / France / Greece
by Danilo Caputo
with Yile Yara Vianello, Feliciana Sibilano, Caterina Valente, Espedito Chionna
World premiere

After years of absence, Nica returns to her native village. Her grandmother’s olive trees are threatened by a bug infestation. Against her father’s will, she fights to preserve the trees and maintain family traditions.

Si c'était de l'amour | If it were love by Patric Chiha
Si c’était de l’amour | If it were love by Patric Chiha

Si c’était de l’amour (If It Were Love)
by Patric Chiha
World premiere / Panorama Dokumente

The creation and performance of Gisèle Vienne’s dance piece “Crowd” is superbly transposed to the screen in this sensual documentary. An exhilarating neon-lit fresco of a young party crowd set to the pulsating beat of loud electronic music.

Suk Suk
Hong Kong, China
by Ray Yeung
with Tai Bo, Ben Yuen, Patra Au Ga Man, Lo Chun Yip, Lam Yiu Sing

A chance encounter brings Pak and Hoi together in Hong Kong. Both are grandfathers and both have lived married lives, providing for their families. A passionate and delicate film about love later in life.

United Kingdom
by Aneil Karia
with Ben Whishaw, Ellie Haddington, Ian Gelder, Jasmine Jobson
Debut film

Joseph leads an unexciting life between his flat and a soulless job at the airport. An impulsive act of rebellion propels him on an unbridled and reckless trip through central London in which he experiences what it feels like to be alive.

Un crimen común (A Common Crime)
Argentina / Brazil / Switzerland
by Francisco Márquez
with Elisa Carricajo, Cecilia Rainero, Mecha Martínez, Eliot Otazo, Ciro Coien Pardo
World premiere

Cecilia is too afraid one night to let her housekeeper’s son into the house. The next day his dead body is found. Francisco Márquez has created a ghostly shimmering narrative that describes the injustices of Argentinean society.

Vento Seco (Dry Wind)
by Daniel Nolasco
with Leandro Faria Lelo, Allan Jacinto Santana, Renata Carvalho, Rafael Theophilo
World premiere

Between work, swimming and anonymous sex, Sandro lives a rather monotonous life in the hot and arid expanse of Goiás in Brazil. When Maicon, a Tom-of-Finland comic strip lookalike, appears in his small town, his life takes a turn.

Welcome to Chechnya
by David France
International premiere / Panorama Dokumente

The first documentary about the activists who join forces to save other people’s and their own lives in the face of the systematic persecution of the LGBTQI* community carried out by the Chechen authorities. A tour de force charged with resilience and courage.

Berlinale Special Gala at Friedrichstadt-Palast

High Ground
by Stephen Maxwell Johnson
with Simon Baker, Jacob Junior Nayinggul, Jack Thompson, Callan Mulvey, Witiyana Marika, Esmerelda Marimowa
World premiere

Sa-nyang-eui-si-gan (Time to Hunt)
Republic of Korea
by Yoon Sung-hyun
with Lee Je-hoon, Ahn Jae-hong, Choi Woo-shik, Park Jeong-min, Park Hae-soo
World premiere

Berlinale Special at Haus der Berliner Festspiele

The American Sector
by Courtney Stephens, Pacho Velez
World premiere / Documentary form

Golda Maria
by Patrick Sobelman, Hugo Sobelman
World premiere / Documentary form

Nomera (Numbers)
Ukraine / Poland / Czech Republic / France
by Oleg Sentsov in collaboration with Akhtem Seitablaiev
with Evhen Chernykov, Agatha Larionova, Oleksandr Begma, Maksym Devizorov, Iryna Mak

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