Berlin: Running Down The Competition

The Berlin Film Festival‘s competition begins its official screenings today after Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster opened out of competition last night. The main section has taken on increasing importance over the past few years. In 2011, Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation won four prizes here and went on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film; it was also nominated for Original Screenplay. Two films that won prizes here in 2012, Nikolaj Arcel’s A Royal Affair and Kim Nguyen’s War Witch, are in the running for the Foreign Language Oscar later this month.

Folks this year say the competition is “hardcore art house” which might turn off domestic buyers. At first glance, the movies do appear a little less sexy than last year when Jeff Lipsky and Tim Grady’s Adopt Films picked up four titles. They recently told me, “The magical thing about Berlin is that we didn’t go there last year with any phenomenal expectations. We had a certain degree of skepticism. You have to approach it that way.” The movies they picked up each won prizes at the fest. This year, they say they’re mildly disappointed that the English-language movies in the lineup are already spoken for and that the festival “hasn’t gone to look for a discovery.”

Films to watch include Wild Bunch’s Camille Claudel 1915 by Bruno Dumont; Elle Driver’s Elle S’En Va with Catherine Deneuve; No Man’s Land director Danis Tanovic’s An Episode In The Life Of An Iron Picker handled by The Match Factory; Gloria from No director Pablo Larrain’s Chilean production company; Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Hope sold by the Coproduction Office and It’s All So Quiet by Nanouk Leopold which Films Distribution (who sold Oscar nominee War Witch) is handling.

Memento Films International has a strong track-record in Berlin having handled A Separation as well as last year’s Special Silver Bear winner Sister which made the Oscar shortlist and has an Indie Spirit nomination. In the competition in Berlin this week, Memento is repping In The Name Of by Polish director Malgoska Szumowska about a conflicted Catholic priest.

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