Berlinale 60, third report

The following is Part Two of my report on the female directors in the official selection of this year’s 60th Berlinale. Today, Bosnian writer-director Jasmila Zbanic, winner of the Golden Bear for her first feature GRBAVICA (Esma’s Secret) in 2006, presented her latest work NA PUTU (On the Path). The film tells the story of Luna and Amar, a young Bosnian couple, bothrefugees who have lost their family during the war and are desperately trying to get their lives back on the track. After Amar gets suspended for drinking on the job, he runs into an old army friend, Bahrija, who has turned into an orthodox Wahhabi Muslim. Bahrija offers Amar a job teaching computer skills to the children of his community. Amar accepts and, slowly but steadily, dives deeper into the Muslim faith – much to Luna’s despair.

In clear and clean images with a slow and steady pacing, Jasmina Zbanic’s second feature is a sensitive exploration of how religious fundamentalism can develop and grow in a society still suffering the
aftermaths of war.

Also today, Argentine director Natalia Smirnoff presented her first feature ROMPECABEZAS (Puzzle), an Argentine-French co-production. Starring Maria Onetto, leading actress in Lucrecia Martel’s 2008 award winning feature LA MUJER SIN CABEZA (The Woman without a Head), ROMPECABEZAS tells the story of Maria del Carmen, a devoted housewife and mother,who discovers, after receiving a puzzle for her 50th birthday, that she has a true talent for the game. Curious to further her talents, she responds to the ad of a fellow puzzle player looking for a partner to compete in a tournament. At first insecure and shy, Maria eventually tells her husband and family about her new-found passion – and starts enjoying it. Shot in many extreme close-ups –exploring the characters’ faces and features, just as Maria does with her puzzle pieces, the film is a well rounded first feature with strong acting performances by the three main protagonists.

The final feature in competition by female filmmaker Pernille Fischer Christensen will screen tomorrow – so more about this one once it premiers.

Two more films by female filmmakers screened in the official selection, yet out of competition.
PLEASE GIVE, by Nicole Holofcener features three generations of NY female characters connected by proximity – they are neighbors. Catherine Keener is Kate, mother of a teenage daughter (Sarah Steel) currently plowing through puberty, and business women selling vintage furniture that she and her husband Alex (Oliver Platt) purchase from deceased fellow New Yorkers. Anne Morgen Guilbert, is Andra, their old-aged and cranky neighbor whose granddaughters Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet) visit daily to take care of her. Each generation, loaded with their own issues, comes together in this entertaining yet earnest family drama. Entering mid-life, Kate starts to feel guilty about making money from the dead and wants a change. Likewise, her husband is seeking some excitement to his routine family life; their daughter just wants to lose her pimples and grow up as fast as possible. Andra hopes to regain her health and become independent of her granddaughters again, and her two granddaughters in return are both looking for some love in their lives. All of the characters just want to belong, be recognized and appreciated for who they really are.

Lisa Cholodenko’s Sundance favorite THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, premiered here in Berlin yesterday with the filmmaker and Julianne Moore, one of the leading actresses, present. In THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, Jules and Nic (Julianne Moore and Annette Benning) are a lesbian couple with two teenage children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson). Their quiet and comfortable family live is suddenly turned upside down when their children decide to contact their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Upon meeting his children and their mothers, Paul’s desire for a family of his own suddenly seems to be fulfilled. However, after an initial harmonious beginning, things start to become more and more complex, complicated and confusing. With a light and charming touch, Cholodenko gently challenges traditional conventions of what constitutes a family without ever sensationalizing or shocking. With its convincing content and cast, this film offers a fresh and compelling look at alternative family models. Focus Features picked up the film in Sundance and will release it in the US later this year.


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Tanja Meding

Tanja Meding :Since moving to New York from Germany in 2003, Tanja Meding has worked as a producer for Maysles Films and other independent production companies. Amongst others, she produced SALLY GROSS-THE PLEASURE OF STILLNESS by Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile which aired on WNET/Thirteen and Channel 25 and is now available on DVD from Since 2007, Tanja has been producing short films by Rosane Chamecki, Andrea Lerner and Phil Harder: JACKIE & JUDY premiered at DANCE ON CAMERA at LINCOLN CENTER was awarded with a PEARL at the POOL 2010 Festival in Berlin. Upcoming this September is a video installation of two new shorts: BOXING and THE COLLECTION at NY's newly opened New York Live Arts building in Chelsea. In addition, Tanja is the co-producer of Gabriella Bier's LOVE DURING WARTIME, a documentary about an Israeli dancer and her Palestinian husband. The film had its US premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and is distributed in the US through 7th Art Releasing. Furthermore, she is the US co-producer of Pascale Obolo's documentary CALYPSO ROSE, LIONESS OF THE JUNGLE. Currently in development with Claudia Brazzale is RETRACING STEPS, a portrait documentary about a group of international dancers and choreographers and their lives 20 years after they first met in NYC.

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