Berlinale 60, first report


As I am waiting to find out whether my flight will take off as planned – or whether the blizzard everyone is afraid of, will keep us grounded, I took the time to check the Berlinale program and made some first notes to see what is playing and what I want to check out.
What follows is my first Berilnale list – which I am sure will go through multiple permutations as I arrive in Berlin, pick up my press badge and get immersed in the festival.

I am curious to see Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS – the new – original, directors cut from 1927 that will screen on Friday at the Brandenburg Gate – it is supposed to be freezing and the capital is expecting even more snow – so we’ll see how long it will take until James and my hands and feet are frozen and we have to pack in. But this should be a once in a lifetime experience – after decades of screening the cut down version – a few years back, a print of the cut that was originally released was found in the Film Museum in Buenos Aires – and has now been restored, and will screen as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations.

Another documentary I look forward to watching is Anne Linsel and Rainer Hoffmann’s DANCE DREAMS (TANZTRAEUME, 2009) – a documentary that follows the process as teenagers learn, rehearse and perform KONTAKTHOF – a classic dance theater piece by the late German choreographer Pina Bausch. Bausch unexpectatly passed away last summer – and so this new documentary will be a beautiful memorial for Bausch – a true cultural icon. Wim Wenders is also in production of a film on Bausch and her Dance Theater – so watch out for that one – highly likely to premiere at a major festival, soon.

Straight from Sundance – there are a number of films that will celebrate their European premiere at the Berlinale – in the feature film arena – there is HOWL, by documentary filmmakers Robert Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman – this is their first feature film collaboration. Just last year, Epstein screened his 1984 documentary THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK at the festival, source material of Gus van Sant’s feature MILK (2008) with Sean Penn.
HOWL covers the time starting in 1955 when the young writer Allen Ginsberg writes his controversial poem HOWL to 1957 when the book was first released in 1957 all the way to the trail in which the book’s publisher Ferlinghetti was charged with obscenity. Starring James Franco David Strathairn, Jon Hamm and Mary-Louise Parker, it should be interesting to see how two documentary filmmakers approach this biopic.

Another Sundance transplant is US filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko’s latest feature THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT(2009)– about a lesbian couple and their teenage children encounter with their biological father.
With Annette Benning and Julian Moore as the lesbian couple and James Russo as the father of their kids – story line and cast should make that a film to look for.

Israeli documentary filmmaker Anat Yuta Zuria will come to Berlin with her latest project Soreret – BLACK BUS (2009). Her previous work PURITY (2002) was an intimate insight into Tharat Hamisphaha, the practices that rule and regulate the lives and sexualities of Jewish orthodox women. Very sensitively Zuria juxtaposed women with different experiences and attitudes towards these strict and codified practices and leaving it up to the audience to draw their own conclusion. Black Bus is the third installment about Jewish women within their Israeli society. In her new documentary, Zuria portraits two women who have left the ultra-orthodox Haredi community – a blogger and a photographer – and how they negotiate their role within modern society.

This to start with – I will check in later and give an update to confirm what I managed to see and what else I found out there…..

By the time you read this, I survived the blizzard – that did not get to NY until after we left – and safely arrived in snowy Berlin – already missed out on the official screening of HOWL, as all tickets were gone – but very much enjoyed the public open air screening of METROPOLIS at Brandenburg Gate last night. And just watched the Romanian competition entry IF I WANT TO WHISTLE, I WHISTLE by Romanian Florian Serban– a first time filmmaker to look out for.

More to come….


About Author

James Ulmer

James Ulmer A contributing writer for The New York Times, James Ulmer's 20-year journalistic career has included penning two national columns for Premiere magazine, and writing and directing for the BBC in London. He was a senior analyst and executive producer at the internet company Creative Planet, and served for eight years as international editor and columnist for The Hollywood Reporter, where he reported from over 50 festivals and markets worldwide. Ulmer is the author of James Ulmer's Hollywood Hot List -- The Complete Guide to Star Ranking from St. Martin's Press., and founded the Hollywood database company The Ulmer Scale ( He has been interviewed in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, The Los Angeles Time and Newsweek, and his commentaries have been featured on "Entertainment Tonight," "CBS This Morning," and the BBC, CBS, CNN, HBO, and E! networks. He has frequently been seen on the Reelz Channel as a commentator and on-camera presenter. A graduate of Harvard College and an Iowa native, Ulmer discovered his passion for Italy as a teenager living in Naples, where he often spent weekends haunting his favorite piazzas.

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