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A preview of the Berlin Film Festival

The 69th annual Berlin Film Festival, running February 7-17, offers some intriguing international films, from established directors as well as newcomers. The festival hosts an impressive jury panel including esteemed actresses Juliette Binoche and Sandra Hüller, Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang, and Oscar-winning director Sebastian Lelio, promising a solid selection process. 

Some of the more interesting and unusual films in competition for the festival’s awards…

Multinational co-production A Tale Of Three Sisters (‘Kiz Kardesler’), by award-winning Turkish director Emin Alper, starring popular film and television star and Vogue model Cemre Ebuzziya. The film is a poignant family drama that follows the relationship of three sisters from an impoverished family in rural Anatolia, who are separated and sent into foster care, then finally reunited under difficult circumstances.

Talented director Zhang Yimou’s (Hero, The Road Home, Raise the Red Lantern) latest production, One Second, is an unusual road film, following the adventures of an escaped convict and the homeless girl he befriends, their individual quests, and the mysterious film reel they are both intent on finding.

Marie Kreutzer, winner of film festival awards from around the world, offers emotional drama The Ground Beneath My Feet. The film follows successful business consultant Lola, whose well-organised career and life begins to spiral out of control as family secrets and the care of her erratic older sister interfere with her orderly existence.

O Beautiful Night is the first feature film from Berlin-based artist, animator, and filmmaker Xavier Böhm, who has previously produced noteworthy short films, as well as animated PSAs for high-profile clients. His newest effort is a comedy/fantasy about a fear-ridden young man who falls in love on the same night he encounters Death incarnate, leading to a strange and sinister three-person road trip.

With seventeen feature films and nineteen international film awards, Xiaoshuai Wang is well established in the film festival circuit. His premiere at the Berlinale is So Long, My Son, a drama which follows two families in China as they cope with social, political, and personal change over the course of thirty years. 

The festival also screens a selection of non-competing films: classics, children’s cinema, shorts, popular premieres, and Forum films, which include work which is experimental or breaks new ground in filmmaking. The opening night gala film this year was The Kindness of Strangers, by veteran Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education, Italian For Beginners), in which an ensemble cast led by Zoe Kazan and Bill Nighy endure challenging crises.

The Berlinale also continues to support the World Cinema Fund, which it helped to initiate, and which aids newly developing film industries around the world, as well as encouraging cultural diversity in cinema, as exemplified by the Berlin Film Festival itself.