Berlinale celebrates 70 years with return to political roots

Reuters , Friday 21 Feb 2020

The festival's 70th edition opened on 20 February and continues until 1 March

(Photo: Reuters)

An exploration of what freedom means in a dictatorship by a jailed Iranian director and the story of three people trying to wrest back control of their lives from social media giants are among the films competing in this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

The programme for the 70th Berlinale, which opened on Thursday, was described by its new director Mariette Rissenbeek as an exploration of artistic and political topics, marking a return to the roots of a festival that was launched in a divided city on the frontlines of the Cold War.

Among 18 films competing for a coveted Golden Bear is Russian director Ilya Khrzhanovskiy’s “DAU. Natasha”, the first fruit of his DAU project, in which actors were filmed living in a long-term simulation of Stalin’s Soviet Union.

Iranian director Mohammad Rasolouf will not be able to attend the premiere of “There is No Evil,” an exploration of themes such as moral strength and the death penalty, due to his imprisonment last year in Iran on charges of anti-government “propaganda”.

“It’s going to be a more ... back-to-the-roots approach, trying to focus on more the quality of cinema and on real strong arthouse movies,” said Scott Roxborough, European bureau chief at the Hollywood Reporter.

The coronavirus epidemic may also make for a slightly lower-key Berlinale. According to Matthijs Wouter Knol, head of the parallel European Film Market, there have been some 100 cancellations, a modest number compared to the 21,000 industry visitors expected in total.

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