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Berlinale Bloggers 2020
What I'm looking forward to at this year's Berlinale

Paula Beer in the German film "Undine"
Paula Beer in the German film "Undine" | © Christian Schulz/Schramm Film

And, action! It’s that time of the year again at Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, with the 70th Berlinale now officially underway. Goethe-Institut Australia’s festival blogger Sarah Ward says she there are five things she's especially looking forward to this time around.

By Sarah Ward

The bears are out around Berlin, the lights are up at Potsdamer Platz and movie posters are plastered across every spare surface around the city. Yes, it’s that time again. For ten days, cinephiles descend upon the German capital to spend hours upon hours in a cinema — and 2020’s Berlinale boasts plenty to tempt them.

Sadly, opening night’s Sigourney Weaver and Margaret Qualley-starring My Salinger Year doesn’t rank among them. When it comes to kicking off the festival, Berlinale has an inconsistent record; for every Hail Caesar! and Isle of Dogs, there’s the middle-of-the-road likes of 2019’s The Kindness of Strangers and now this. But the great thing about opening night is it’s just one movie in a program of hundreds. You could choose to take an average opener as a sign of things to come; however with so many other films on offer, one movie can never typify the entire the lineup.

Accordingly, under new directors Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek, highlights abound. Here’s five that should attract attention — spanning acclaimed filmmakers, standout stars, welcome trends and more.

Top filmmakers in competition

Any film festival competition with a Hong Sang-soo film is a great film festival competition indeed. But the South Korean’s The Woman Who Ran is just one of 2020’s big titles from stellar filmmakers with impressive track records, with Sally Potter’s The Roads Not Taken, Rithy Panh’s Irradiated and Tsai Ming-Liang’s Rizi all on the bill, as well as Philippe Garrel’s The Salt of Tears, Mohammad Rasoulof’s There Is No Evil and Abel Ferrara’s Siberia.

A scene from the South Korean film South Korean film "The Woman Who Ran" was directed by Hong Sang-soo

Germany's best and brightest

Also among the competition entries: Christian Petzold’s Undine. Two years after Transit also played in competition, it reunites that film’s stars — Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski — for another type of love story. Rogowski, who was everywhere at Berlinale in 2018, also pops up in Black Milk, while Petzold’s previous muse, Nina Hoss, stars in the competition’s My Little Sister. And, Toni Erdmann’s Sandra Huller features in Exile as well.

Quality, not premieres

Too often, a film festival is judged on the strength of its world premieres. But if a fantastic feature hasn’t screened in this corner of the globe, excluding it just because it’s already played elsewhere is nonsensical. In 2020, the Berlinale competition welcomes Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow and Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always, two films any festival would be thrilled to have on their lineup. Also in the tried-and-tested category, and from an exceptional female director, too: Josephine Decker’s Shirley.

Australia making a splash

Recent Berlinales have proven quiet on the Australian front, making 2020’s more sizeable — albeit still modest — Aussie haul stand out.  It’s a great year for actor Aaron Pedersen, who features in western High Ground and in outback noir series Mystery Road (the second season of which is premiering its first two episodes at the festival). Cate Blanchett-led TV drama Stateless is also on the program, while the family-friendly H is for Happiness (which is already open in Australia) launches the Generation Kplus lineup. 

A scene from the Australian film “High Ground” Simon Baker stars in the Australian film “High Ground”

A whole new world

New directors, new eyes, new festival strand. That’s how 2020’s Encounters program came about. A competitive section that focuses on “aesthetically and structurally daring works”, it spans a diverse variety of entries in its debut year — from Matías Piñeiro’s latest, Isabella; to wordless veganism documentary Gunda; to the Romanian New Wave’s Malmkrog.