This week’s column comes from Berlinale 2017 as I report back on festival highlights.
Day 1: As per my tradition, the first film I get to see is a total stinker! A Jim Carey, playing Polish, crime story very loosely adapted from a real case, but with additional shots of women being tortured – which, of course, the film didn’t need. Never mind though, at least I’m up and running!
Next was a real treat. I’ve been reading about Yorkshire made GOD’S OWN COUNTRY (right) for a while and after it made big waves at Sundance and was picked up for UK distribution, I just couldn’t miss it. Frequently described as Yorkshire’s BROKE BACK MOUNTAIN, this story of life and love on a farm is tender, believable and beautiful. I will really look forward to bringing this film to Sheffield.
In 2011 when we Skyped RED DOG in Australia, I was deliriously happy. The film was great, people loved it and pretty much everyone cried. When a prequel was announced, I was already on board. RED DOG: TRUE BLUE doesn’t quite live up to my expectations but I enjoyed it all the same. The puppy was so cute that I gasped, and there are some great jokes throughout.
THE NILE RIVER INCIDENT is another title that’s received Sundance buzz and it didn’t disappoint. Set in the days before the 2011 revolution in Egypt, this is a story of corrupt police, murder, investigations, immigration and most of all tension. A brilliant film to illustrate the melting pot that is Egyptian society and the boiling point that it had reached in 2011.
Finally, for tonight I headed off to the opening of the Panorama section and THE WOUND, widely regarded as South Africa’s BROKE BACK MOUNTAIN (I’m sensing a theme in marketeers approach here). A society in which homosexuality cannot be allowed is at the heart of this film and it is tense and angry in its repression.
Day 2: First up today was the wonderfully off-beat, slaughter-house romance ON BODY AND SOUL, from Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi. This surprisingly funny and moving tale of love between a very unlikely couple and the dreams that they have, is not like anything I’ve ever seen before. I’d love to see it again and will now have to seek out Enyedi’s previous films as her style and tone are right up my street.
After a break it’s off to the Friedrichstrasse cinema for the repeat of the festival opener DJANGO. Not to be confused with the blood-soaked fiasco that was DJANGO UNCHAINED, this biopic of Django Reinhardt is a very moving and incredibly watchable film, full of beautiful music. Although the Nazis do get a little comedic (which bothers me somewhat) this story is gripping and the music at the end had me in tears.
Day 3: Saturday’s competition screenings were FÉLICITÉ, a Congolese film about a singer struggling to pay medical expenses for her son, and THE FINAL PORTRAIT, about Giacometti’s portrait of an art critic, which I really didn’t enjoy but might be more interesting for art enthusiasts.
Day 4: On Sunday I was really looking forward to Agnieszka Holland’s SPOOR, a feminist, ecological thriller about a woman fighting against the hunting-loving society in rural Poland. I love Holland’s films and this is a brilliant watch again, surely capable of finding an audience among European crime TV fans, as well as traditional art-house film audiences.
VICEROY’S HOUSE, from director Gurinder Chadha was next and this lavish telling of the story of partition blended with a love story is bound to be popular back home. With Gillian Anderson’s cut glass accent, Hugh Bonneville’s Mountbatten exuding Downton style and a Romeo and Juliet story to boot, anything that this film lacks in depth it makes up for in heart. I left wishing I knew more about the history, but I am sure that many other people will be more clued up than I. A colleague asked me if we teach about colonialism at school and I was forced to explain that no, we teach about acceptable bits of history and not about the responsibilities of our forefathers.