Usually by now we have heard about part of the Berlin Festival Competition programme and the opening night film. Not this year. Might the rumours be true that the Cannes and Berlin artistic directors are in a tug-of-war over Paris-based Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch as a potential festival opener? The film was shot in the south of France but is a US/German co-production so both festivals have a case. We shall just have to wait and see where the film, which stars Anderson regulars Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Saoirse Ronan, as well as French nationals like Lea Seydoux and Mathieu Amalric, and the red hot bilingual American Timothee Chalamet, might land.
Nevertheless, today The Berlinale, celebrating its landmark 70th edition, announced some of its programme. The festival’s new artistic director Carlo Chatrian (who came from Locarno) has instigated a programme of Special Galas, and Pinocchio, directed by Matteo Garrone (Dogman, Gomorrah) and starring Roberto Benigni is the first Gala to be revealed.
“Garrone succeeds in re-telling the well-known story with his very own world of images,” comments Chatrian. “Although he is faithful to Carlo Collodi’s ideas, he has nevertheless created a very personal Pinocchio that is much more cheerful than we’ve experienced before.”
The Italy/UK/French co-production will not be a world premiere as it releases in Italy today.
Likewise, H is for Happiness, a high-profile Australian entry in the Generation Kplus section, is an international premiere. The feature debut of John Sheedy, who had won the MIFF 2017 Best Australian Short Film award for Mrs McCutcheon, had been well received when it first screened at MIFF this year, and went on to take out the lucrative CinefestOZ Film Prize.
Adapted from Barry Jonsberg’s acclaimed young adult novel, the sunny coming-of-age story follows Candice Phee, an irrepressible 12 year-old Daisy Axon (Judy and Punch) whose mum (Emma Booth) suffers from depression and her dad (Richard Roxburgh) is not on speaking terms with his brother (Joel Jackson). With the help of her friend she becomes determined to bring her family together. It all starts when Candice’s teacher (Miriam Margolyes) asks her students to tell their life stories via the alphabet, exploring a detail about themselves for each letter.
US director Alexandre Rockwell, who had success with 1992’s In The Soup starring Steve Buscemi and the recently deceased Seymour Cassel, will world premiere Sweet Thing about a dysfunctional family – and it stars his actress wife Karyn Parsons and their kids, as well as Will Patton.
An Australian short film The Flame by Nick Waterman will world premiere in the Generation 14plus for older kiddies.
The Berlinale’s Panorama sidebar has announced 18 films, including Australian director Kitty Green’s US feature The Assistant which comes direct from Sundance as does Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets from directors Bill and Turner Ross, and David France’s documentary Welcome to Chechnya.
Berlin regular Stellan Skarsgard, who so impressed recently in the mini-series Chernobyl, stars in the Scandinavian drama Hope from director Maria Sodahl, the wife of Hans Petter Moland, Skarsgard’s director on four films, including the masterful In Order of Disappearance. Hope, which premiered in Toronto, is based on Sodahl’s own personal story when, seven years ago, she received a terminal cancer diagnosis.
A Berlinale retrospective of the films of King Vidor will include 1949’s Beyond the Forest starring Bette Davis.
A tribute to Helen Mirren had already been announced.
Main photo: Greta De Lazzaris