The Berlin Film Festival 2019 Steps Toward Gender Diversity


The 69th Berlin International Film Festival is set to begin this week, on February 7, 2019, and will last for ten days until February 17. The Berlinale is one of the major events of the year in European cinema, along with Cannes and Venice. The festival hosts the European Film Market, which is the world’s second-largest film market. This year the Berlinale sets itself apart from other festivals, and, in fact, award ceremonies, as it will showcase a good proportion of films directed by women.

 While the Academy Awards decided to nominate no women in the categories of Best Film or Best Director, the Berlinale this year has selected 7 films directed by women out of the 17 films in competition. The selection committee has thus made the conscious choice of having 41% of films in competition from female directors. While it isn’t yet 50%, the festival, fortunately, leads in the right direction. Some may moan that the quality of the films should take precedence, but considering that the last two Golden Bears were won by women, the Romanian Adina Pintilie for her film Touch Me Not in 2018, and the Hungarian Ildiko Enyedi’s On Body and Soul in 2017, one can be sure that all the films selected are of the highest quality, regardless of gender.

The competition will open with the world premiere of Lone Scherfig’s film The Kindness of Strangers, starring Zoe Kazan and Tahar Rahim (A Prophet). Scherfig won the Silver Bear for her film Italian for Beginners. She has also directed An Education, which starred Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard, in 2009. Her 2011 film One Day became an international blockbuster. The Kindness of Strangers is set in New York where Clara has escaped to with her two sons to get away from her abusive husband and father.

The competition also features Agnieszka Holland’s Mr Jones, starring James Norton, who plays a Welsh journalist who is in Ukraine in 1933. The already-controversial film by François Ozon, Grâce à Dieu, which will compete for the Golden Bear, is about child abuse in the Catholic church. There is also Fatih Akin’s Der Goldene Handschuh (The Golden Glove) about an infamous serial killer Fritz Honka. Angela Schanelec’s new film Ich war zu hause, aber (I Was at Home, But) was also selected for the competition.

For the first time, a Netflix-produced film was selected for the competition. Elisa and Marcela, by the Spanish director Isabel Coixet, is about two women living in Spain around 1900 who are in love. Unlike other European film festivals, Dieter Kosslick, director of the Berlinale, decided that Netflix films should not be excluded, that a way should be found to work with online platforms so that films may be protected by being first shown in theatres and then online.

By: Sheena Scott for Forbes


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