A lifestyle expat travel blog about culture, history, Brexit, the Royal Family, travels around the world, Europe, and being British in Berlin!
Tonight is the last day of the Berlin International Film Festival otherwise known as the Berlinale! And what a wonderful time we’ve had!
We have had a long, fantastic fortnight of films, films, and yes more films!
I live in Berlin. Of course, I’ve been to the Berlinale before but never as a press person.
Never as a professional blogger!
Let me tell you.
It was awesome!
Berlin has been hobnobbing with the best. If it’s good enough for the likes of the talented Emma Thompson, Spike Lee, Jude Law, Hugh Laurie, and Julianne Moore surely, it’s good enough for you!
In the flurry of excitement and talented art, I managed to watch thirty-two (32) films in just ten (10) days.
I admit. It was a little exhausting but some films were long and some weren’t.
I’m a corporate trainer, I’m married and have a young son, so I always have to get smart and creative. During the week, I went to only one movie per day – late night – and then really went crazy over the weekend.
I must be mad!
Here are the films that I watched:
In my opinion, every film was brilliant and none were duds!
So without further ado, here are the 12 films that I recommend, in alphabetical order.
This Brazilian production based on a true story, is a warm, heartfelt emotional film about a teenager who finds out that not only is he adopted, but both he and his younger sister were stolen as children!
His world falls apart.
His mother goes to jail, his sister is taken away to live with the biological parents that she has never met, and he has to live with his “new” biological parents who have no idea that he’s bi-sexual and gender neutral.
The main actor – Naomi Nero – was at the film screening and was quite a lovely shy chap. I even managed to have a shake of the hand and a very quick “hi” chat!
This production is a real-life documentary about four (4) couples set in four (4) European cities – Tallinn (Estonia), Seville (Spain), Dublin (Ireland), and Thessaloniki (Spain).
The film is a close-up insight of how these couples see themselves within the sphere of the European Union, as well as their daily struggles, employment issues, relationships, family, passion, sex and love.
Being that the movie was set and produced in Europe, no holds were barred with ahem. intimate filming… and everything was real!
A most inspiring film!
Food porn at it’s best, and a bloody fantastic Nordic film!
This film is a creative journey into the mind of René Redzepi – the brains and creator of Noma – A small organic and naturally sourced restaurant, located in Denmark, Copenhagen.
The production is the story of how he changed the image of Scandinavian food from boring and bland, to the pedigree of the as-of-now trendy Nordic cuisine. René established a new edible world while radically changing the image of the modern chef.
Follow René’s story as he reigned over the realm of Nordic gourmet cuisine, had a restaurant scandal, clawed his way back to the top, reinvented NOMA, and reclaimed the title of best restaurant in the world in 2014!
For only the fourth time!
In fact, I’m so impressed that I’m going to do my best to visit NOMA in Copenhagen this summer, myself!
This is a British / German production based on the Tom McCarthy’s novel of the same name. This film is about a young man who is hit by a fallen object in a freak accident.
When he awakens from his coma he is given £8.5m in compensation and his memory has disappeared. All that remains is a fragmentary image of a small boy on the top of the staircase, in an old house.
Using his enormous wealth, the young man buys a house and fills it with actors to re-create and play out the scene again, and again, but as scraps of memory return, his demands grow increasingly complicated, risky and weird.
This was the only film throughout the Berlinale film festival that I was able to watch together with The Music Producer. I squeezed my husband’s hand a lot! And I even got a Twitter shout out from the production team of the main British actor – Tom Sturridge!
A clever, brilliant film.
A Belgian film about the journey of a mother whose daughter – Elodie – has disappeared.
In shock, the mother discovers that her daughter has left for Cyprus. Her goal – Syria!!
Alone, divorced and abandoned by the authorities, she tries to get her daughter back by personally travelling to Turkey, and trying to smuggle herself into a very dangerous, war-zone Syria!
This film is the struggle of a mother who must ﬁght for the daughter she loves.
A wonderful, heart wrenching film!
A lot of people seemed to think that Shelly is a horror film.
It’s disturbing and harrowing, but you won’t lose any sleep over it.
At least I didn’t!
Based loosely on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the film Shelley is a Danish / Swedish production about a young Romanian woman – Elena – who goes to Denmark to work as a housekeeper.
The house is isolated, and the couple who own the house prefer to live without the use of electricity, and from the fruit of the land.
The couple – Louise and her husband are unable to have children and a suggestion for Elena to be the surrogate mother, is made. However, instead of a joyous moment, Elena begins to have bizarre hallucinations and unbearable sensations. She also begins to change psychologically and physically….!
Disturbing. Gruesome, but brilliant!
p.s. There’s a baby involved, but I wasn’t scared!
This Swedish production is a film about a child’s exciting adventure. A magical place where anything can happen and badgers can talk and wear red wellies and where rooms get larger and smaller and the vacuum cleaner comes to life!
The film is based on a picture book by Pija Lindenbaum famous for writing stories told from the viewpoint of a child, with the magic and realism of Alice in Wonderland, and a Swedish version of Tim Burton!
I think children the world over would agree, as the theatre was jam-packed with kids and the young actors were marvellous!
A lovely Swedish film!
This British / Korean production is a sensational thriller-romance-documentary that tells the true-life story of a young ambitious South Korean film director – Shin Sang-ok – and his talented actress wife – Choi Eun-hee – who met, and fell in love in post-war Korea of the 1950s.
With a string of awards to their name and two children, they reach the top of Korean society, and it seems that things couldn’t get any better for the golden couple. However, Shin has an affair with a younger actress, the Shin Films company is in financial trouble, and by 1978 the couple are divorced.
Somewhere along the way, Choi is kidnapped by North Korean agents in Hong Kong, and taken to meet Kim Jong-il, the de facto leader of North Korea. A few months later, whilst retracing Choi’s last steps, Shin finds himself kidnapped to North Korea too!
After five years of imprisonment, they are eventually reunited by the brutal but movie-obsessed dictator – Kim Jong-il, who declares them his own personal filmmakers!
Having rekindled their love for each other, they plan their escape from North Korea, but not before producing 17 feature films for Kim and gaining his trust in the process, so that while on a business trip to Vienna (Austria), Shin and Choi escape and make a break for the American Embassy.
In return for information on North Korea, they are given asylum in the USA, where a career in Hollywood beckons…
You couldn’t make it up.
A fly on the wall pieced-together-documentary, of a political mad man and true love.
You won’t regret it!
This British production is a dark, modern fairy tale in which the lives of two couples become fatally intertwined. Kate (Clémence Poésy) and Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) live in the upstairs flat of a London house. Thirty-something, successful and affluent, they are expecting their first baby.
All appears well on the surface although Kate, like any first-time mother, harbours deep-rooted fears about her fitness to be a mother and her ability to love her child.
Another couple, Jon (David Morrissey) and Theresa (Laura Birn), move into the empty apartment below. They are also expecting a baby and, in stark contrast to Kate, Theresa is full of joy at the prospect of imminent motherhood.
Pregnancy brings the two women together in a blossoming friendship as Kate becomes entranced by Theresa’s unquestioning celebration of her family-to-be.
But everything changes one night at a dinner party and a tragic accident throws Kate and Justin into a living nightmare and a reign of psychological terror begins…..!
A fantastic film.
If you find it, watch it!!
This Danish / Mali / French production is a documentary-experiment where the protagonist becomes the documentary filmmaker. Shot entirely by a migrant from Mali – Abou Sidibé – it’s a true-life story and the film transforms you – the viewer – into Abou on the top of a mountain region (Mount Gurugú) in Morocco, that effectively is categorised as Spain.
In short, a part of Europe in Africa.
Over a thousand hopeful African migrants live on Mount Gurugú watching the land border – a fence system separating Morocco and Spain – on one of the world’s most militarized frontiers.
Abou from Mali is one of the migrants and is also the protagonist in front of the camera, as well as the person behind it. For 16 months, he has ceaselessly persisted in attempting to jump the fence.
At the fence are rough razor-wires, automatic pepper spray and brutal authorities.
After every failed attempt, the men return to Mount Gurugú scouring for food in the nearby villages, trying to uphold some sort of order in the camp, and building up their confidence again. Some give up and return home, whilst others never return from the fence.
Looking through the lens, Abou gradually finds expression and meaning in his situation but after 16 months on the mountain, Abou is brought close to death and a tragic accident. Returning to Mali is not an option for him, and he becomes ever more determined to pursue his dream of a better life in Europe. And for Abou, the inequality that defines our times is a simple fact.
This film is a harrowing, distressing film filled with abject hope. To watch the film is to be immersed in the Kafkaesque nightmare of migration.
A masterpiece of empathy and moral imagination.
Go see for yourself.
This Polish production is set in the Poland of 1990 – the ﬁrst euphoric year of freedom after the Fall of the Berlin Wall – and as a result, uncertainty of the future.
Four apparently happy women of different ages, decide it’s time to change their lives, ﬁght for their happiness, and fulfill their desires.
Agata is a young mother trapped in an unhappy marriage, who seeks refuge in an impossible relationship. Renata is an older teacher fascinated with her neighbour Marzena. Marzena is a lonely former local beauty queen whose husband works in Germany. Marzena’s sister – Iza – is the Director of the local school and having an affair with the father of one of her students.
It’s a bare-all film with stark, almost black and white photography, scenes of the former-Eastern Bloc, smoking, frontal nudity, and sexual stimulation!
I can’t decide if the nudity or the constant smoking offended me more, as I was watching the film at 09:30 in the morning!
Honestly speaking, I think the thing that shocked me most was the smoking at the dinner table and in every conversation!
Highly recommended all the same!
And finally, of course,
A weird film about a Japanese man running around with a cabbage on his head!
Seriously though, this Japanese production is derived from Akira Ogata’s cult film – TOKYO CABBAGEMAN K – in which a young man named K wakes up one morning and discovers that his head has been replaced by a huge Chinese cabbage!
If you’re going to mutate into something, wonders a friend, why a cabbage head and not a vampire?
K’s new appearance quickly turns him into a Japanese media star and sex object. Bizarrely being a celebrity proves too much so he plants himself into a cabbage patch!
What can I say?!
In watching a festival film, you get to see a large variety of international locations and settings, and a better intimate view with acting and scenes that are are much more realistic than in films with a Hollywood budget!
The Berlin International Film Festival otherwise known as the Berlinale, is a special treat for the public.
See you next year!
This article is not sponsored and even though I received complimentary tickets, all opinions and the amazing festival films that I saw, are my very own!
I have so much to share with you.
Cinestar Original will be showing William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” on 25.02.2016, presented by the National Theatre LIVE!
In March, I’ll be travelling to England, Spain & Portugal!
February is wet and lovely!
See you in Berlin.
Ah, the Berlin film festival. I loved it when I was there. It was the year of Wim Wenders and Wings of Desire. Fantastic!
I’d love to see the film on Noma – especially as I ate an amazing meal there a couple of years ago. You should get yourself up to Copenhagen and do a review. That’s a meal you won’t forget…
Thanks so much Thomas!
I love the Berlinale too. It can be daunting but once you get the hang of it, it works! NOMA is a lovely film. Can’t believe that you’ve been there. I hadn’t heard of it until that moment. I know! But you can bet your nelly that I’ll try my best to get a booking and review it myself! 🙂
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