Competition and Honorary Bear
German films at Berlinale

“24 Weeks” by Anne Zohra Berrached
“24 Weeks” by Anne Zohra Berrached | Photo (detail): © Friede Clausz

Last year: Three Germans in Competition! New Wenders! New Dresen! New Herzog! What can the Berlinale 2016 possibly bring in terms of German A-listers?

A quarter of the 2015 Berlinale program was made up of German films and co-productions — 96 to be exact out of just over 400. Compare this to 72 out of 434 this year, according to Berlinale head Dieter Kosslick’s count. When asked by the Berliner Morgenpost whether this signifies a lull in German cinema, he just blamed timing. Which is true of course — programmers can only program (good) films that are ready.


But the very last announcement for the Competition was the (only) German film in the line-up for the coveted Golden Bear. Anne Zohra Berrached’s tragic drama 24 Weeks is her graduation film, reminiscent of an under-30 Andreas Dresen, who got his big start at the Berlinale in 1991 with To Istanbul As Fast As Possible. Berrached was at the Berlinale three years ago with her student feature debut Two Mothers, a lesbian drama that got attention at the Perspektive Deutsches Kino sidebar and won the Dialogue en Perspective Award. Based on Berrached's previous shorts and debut, I have high hopes.


More good news: The Honorary Golden Bear 2016 goes to cinematography legend Michael Ballhaus, just before he retires. This gives the Berlinale an attractive opportunity to screen a dozen of  his 130 films —15 with Fassbinder, seven with Scorsese, others with Wolfgang Petersen, Volker Schlöndorff, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and Francis Ford Coppola, among others. I especially look forward to Martha and The Age of Innocence.

Doris Dörrie’s latest black-and-white Fukushima Mon Amour, premiering in the Panorama section, will have to make good on her last few disappointments.

Let’s enjoy the Berlinale and have patience until Cannes/later in the year when we can expect a new Fatih Akin, Tom Tykwer, Angela Schanelec, Maren Ade, Robert Thalheim, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (think The Lives of Others, not The Tourist, I hope). My first bet of the year: fingers crossed for Wim Wenders’ Handke adaptation The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez as a Toronto International Film Festival 2016 premiere!