Berlinale: 70th edition takes shape
New management, new locations and hot new competition: The 70th Berlin International Film Festival starting February 20 brims with fresh ideas while honoring cinema stalwarts including actor Helen Mirren.
Opening film: "My Salinger Year"
The 70th Berlinale will open with the Canadian-Irish film "My Salinger Year." Based on the memoir by Joanna Rakoff, director Philippe Falardeau tells the story of a young writer who works as an assistant to a successful literary agent (played by Sigourney Weaver), and who gets the job of responding to fan mail for cult author J.D. Salinger. Sigourney Weaver is expected to attend the premiere.
New leadership duo
After long-time director Dieter Kosslick resigned last year, the 70th edition of the Berlinale is the work of a new management duo: former Locarno Film Festival director Carlo Chatrian (center) as artistic director; and Mariette Rissenbeek (left), formerly of German Films, as managing director. The two were officially introduced in 2019 by Minister of State for Culture, Monika Grütters (right).
Updated cinema locations
The new festival heads had to quickly deal with changes in Berlin's cinema landscape. Because a large multiplex cinema on Potsdamer Platz closed its doors, and some other venues were no longer available, replacements were needed. The Cubix cinema on Alexanderplatz, previously a secondary location of the festival, is now — alongside Potsdamer Platz — one of the central venues for the Berlinale.
Jury head: Jeremy Irons
Actor Jeremy Irons should cut a fine figure on the red carpet at the Berlinale, with the Briton announced as head the international jury this year. At the close of the competition screenings, he and his team will decide the coveted Golden and Silver Bear winners. The Oscar winner won plaudits for 1981's "The French Lieutenant's Woman," and stars in HBO's current superhero series, "Watchmen."
'Non-competition' films part of Special Gala
The "out of competition" component of the Competition has been scrapped, with non-competing films to be presented as part of the Berlinale Special Gala. Leading the pack will be "Pinocchio," from director Matteo Garrone and starring Roberto Begnini. "Garrone succeeds in re-telling the well-known story with his very own world of images," said Carlo Chatrian of a "much more cheerful" Pinocchio.
German cinema again in focus
German film will again be a key component of the program via the Perspektive Deutsches Kino section. A compact programme features four outstanding documentary and feature films that shows how new filmmakers choose to reflect on German society and its social and political orientation. The psychological drama "Schlaf" (Sleep) starring Oscar-nominated Sandra Hüller (pictured) will premiere.
Women behind the camera
As in most major film festivals, increased female participation will be much anticipated this year after former director Dieter Kosslick in 2019 signed the 5050x2020 pledge to work for increased gender equality. The final program will soon reveal if the Berlinale has increased opportunities for female filmmakers. At the least, celebrated Polish director Agnieszka Holland will premiere "Charlatan."
Honorary Golden Bear for Helen Mirren
Oscar winner Helen Mirren will receive the Honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement. The British actor, who emerged on screen following her tremendous success on the theater stage — she became a Dame in 2003 for her services to drama — went on to win the best actress Oscar for "The Queen" in 2007. She was on the Berlinale red carpet in 2015 for her role in "Women in Gold."
Retrospective: King Vidor
Hollywood director King Vidor (pictured left with Audrey Hepburn while filming "War and Peace" in 1955) is the focus of the retrospective. The Texan director of near 80 works began making silent films and helmed the 1928 Oscar-nominated masterpiece "The Crowd." In addition to "War and Peace," his countless sound film era classics included the western "Duel in the Sun" (1946) starring Gregory Peck.