The Berlin International Film Festival is one of the most prestigious film-festivals in the world. Held annually in the month of February, the Berlinale plays host to over 400 films, a dozen or so of which compete for The Golden Bear, an award given to the best film of the festival. Known for showcasing films with strong political and social agendas, the festival boasts of a palette of varied forces in current cinema. Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel opened the 64th edition of the festival this year, with American screenwriter James Schamus announced as the President of the Jury.
This year’s edition was especially significant for Asian cinema as the Chinese film Black Coal, Thin Ice swooped in awards in the Best Picture and Best Actor category, while Haru Kuroki won in the Best Actress category for her role in the Japanese drama, The Little House. However, the movie that stole the show this year was Richard Linklater’s magnum opus, Boyhood. The movie pushes the boundaries of experimental film-making to its limits, and in the process achieves unprecedented heights of storytelling. The film analyzes the process of maturity of a seven year old boy through the end of his teens, as the epic scale of production flows through over a dozen years. What has kept Linklater relevant all these years is his impeccable understanding of human emotions, and he displays the full repertoire in this film.
With so many A-listers sharing the red-carpet, some form of controversy was bound to happen. Danish director Lars Von Trier generated a lot of buzz when he showed up at the press-conference wearing a t-shirt that read Persona non Grata, obviously referring to the shunning that he received from the media 2 years ago at the Cannes, following certain seemingly insensitive statements that he made about having sympathy with the Nazis. He was there for the premiere of the first volume of his highly ambitious project, Nymphomaniac. Among other movies, Ethiopian film Difret received much acclaim from the critics, also receiving the Panorama Audience Award for Fiction. The movie shocked and awed the critics and audiences alike, as it depicted the detestable Ethiopian custom of bride-kidnapping.
India, too, made its mark at the Berlinale, with Avinash Arun’s Marathi film Killa winning the Crystal Bear. This award is presented by the Children’s Jury to the film which best caters to the needs of the children and young audiences at the festival. Imtiaz Ali of Jab We Met fame also got a chance to showcase his auteurship, as his movie Highway was invited to be screened in the Panorama programme of the festival.
The Berlinale belongs to the trio of international film festivals (Cannes-Berlin-Venice), selection at which brings a form of credibility not only to the directors but also to their native cinema. A perfect example of this is post-90’s Iranian cinema, which gained world-wide repute after the successes of directors like Abbas Kiarostami at these festivals. Indian cinema, however, has seen a gradual decline in stature since the days of Ritwik Ghatak and Satyajit Ray. This could possibly be attributed to the subversion of Indian parallel cinema by the blockbuster mentality of Bollywood. Let’s hope appreciation of movies like Killa turns the tide in favour of art-house cinema in the country.