It was almost seven years ago that the work of a Berlin-based filmmaker changed the way I watched films entirely. There was a big retrospective at the Arsenal and I was extremely curious to discover someone whose films had labels like “women’s film” “art film” “queer cinema” and “independent director” attached to them. I had seen images of wild costumes, extravagant make-up, outlandish performers and fantastic imagery before I had actually seen the films they were taken from. Of all the magical hours I had spent getting sucked into this mad universe, one film had stayed with me the most. It is called Freak Orlando and its director is a true artist and can be best described as an untamed magician: Ulrike Ottinger.
Phew! Now, that the overall excitement of the Berlinale has settled and there is finally some time, I want to take a personal and selective look back at some of the islands in the festival stream. Here are the first three filmmakers (of four films) that impressed me endlessly and –what a coincidence- all three are female first-time directors who made great and unusual art and hopefully have a long and exciting career ahead of them.
In a past life, I wrote log lines. What that means is that I used to read movie scripts and then distill them into one or two-line synopses. “After a young librarian finds a mysterious scroll, she embarks on an arduous quest that will reunite her with both her long-lost father and her missing poodle.” Things like that. It’s instilled in me a great admiration for the movie pitch and a great, if ambivalent, reader of film festival programs.
It’s been such an easy start to the year that it’s almost a surprise that the Berlinale is already almost upon us. Now, we know that many of you are intimidated by the sheer size of the festival, let alone how to get tickets without standing in the Potsdamer Platz Arcaden for unendurably bright hours on end. We’re here to help, providing a quick and dirty guide to how to get the most out of this year’s Berlinale.
„Screw you world, we don’t need you, we’ll just make art!“ Bosaina is in tears after she has performed the song „Porn Police“ with her band Wetrobots at a nightclub in Cairo. She is wearing a leopard leotard and ironically sang about „satanic homosexuals“ and the sexual freedom of women when the crowd starting chanting „Erhal, erhal, erhal!“ which means „Go away!“ Bosaina, like the four other main protagonists of Art War, is trying to express herself creatively in Egypt during the difficult times that followed the Arab Spring. Her struggle and the verbal and physical fights of young Egyptian artists build the centre of a fast-paced and jazzy documentary that has been in Berlin cinemas for a week.