by Giacomo Abbruzzese
with Franz Rogowski, Morr Ndiaye, Laëtitia Ky, Leon Lučev, Matteo Olivetti
France / Italy / Belgium / Poland 2023
Aleksei is a young Belarusian on the run from a past he must bury. Entering into a kind of Faustian pact, he becomes a member of the French Foreign Legion in exchange for the promise of French citizenship. Far away in the Niger Delta, Jomo is a revolutionary activist engaged in an armed struggle to defend his community. Aleksei is a soldier, Jomo a guerrilla fighter. As a result of one more senseless war, their destinies will intertwine.
What is “otherness” and how do you absorb it into who you are as you go through life, cross borders and find yourself inhabiting an ever-changing physical and mental space? Giacomo Abbruzzese exhibits a remarkable sense of out-of-the-box thinking and inventiveness as he explores such questions in a visually striking work that is ripe with poetry and tension. Bodies fall into trances that are both revelatory and altruistic because they represent an opportunity to commune with others. Accompanying this magical reverie is a powerful score from electronic musician Vitalic that helps turn the night club into a place of transcendence. The disco becomes the ultimate destination for those who keep their sights firmly set on the sacred horizon of utopia.
The good mothers
by Julian Jarrold, Elisa Amoruso | with Gaia Girace, Valentina Bellè, Barbara Chichiarelli, Francesco Colella, Simona Distefano
United Kingdom / Italy 2023
“Remember one thing. Who’s are you, Denise? You are mine.” Denise’s beloved mother disappears without a trace, literally before her eyes. Years ago she had testified against her husband, the notorious ’Ndrangheta boss Carlo Cosco, hoping for a witness protection programme that never came to pass. Denise and two other women born into Italy’s richest mafia families become key allies of a young prosecutor, Anna Colace, who has made it her mission to overthrow the brutal system from within.
Adapted from the eponymous novel by Alex Perry which is based on true events, screenwriter Stephen Butchard weaves together the stories of three extraordinary women, and tells of their brave decision to turn their backs on a vicious circle of oppression and violence, and to take on their own families instead. Directors Julian Jarrold and Elisa Amoroso have found poetic and disquieting images to portray a world full of extreme contradictions and make palpable the nervous tension that constantly accompanies the titular “good mothers”.
Laggiù qualcuno mi ama
by Mario Martone
with Francesco Piccolo, Anna Pavignano, Valeria Pezza, Goffredo Fofi, Paolo Sorrentino
If ever there was an Italian artist who was underrated as an actor and, above all, director (who is still waiting to be discovered), it is Massimo Troisi (1953–1994). Dying young at only forty-one after playing the lead in Il postino, he was a brilliant stage actor before becoming an astonishing film director. His understanding of comedy, his fragile and melancholic character, and his keen observations of the intimate and political relationships between men and women have been a source of inspiration for an entire generation.
Mario Martone’s documentary explores the personality of Troisi in frank conversations with his contemporaries about his films. Martone listens to the accounts of friends and colleagues, finds unexpected points of contact with the French New Wave and, for the first time, analyses extraordinary unpublished documents that reveal Troisi’s secret laboratory – the place where his ideas, jokes and truly poetic writing came to life.
L’ultima notte di amore
by Andrea Di Stefano
with Pierfrancesco Favino, Linda Caridi, Antonio Gerardi, Francesco Di Leva, Camilla Semino Favro
BERLINALE SPECIAL GALA
Milan. On the night before his retirement, after 35 years of honourable service without so much as a shot fired, Lieutenant Franco Amore sees his world turned upside down. But maybe it is the world around him that has changed, from day into night. His wife is much more aware than he that life is a matter of making compromises and that sometimes tough decisions have to be taken.
Andrea Di Stefano has created a geometric and suspenseful thriller that plays with the rules of the genre by mixing the fatalism of classic film noir with the heated emotions of melodrama. The clockwork mechanism of the narrative does not just content itself with perfecting the characters, but also sheds new light on an environment and a city that exists perilously on the border between law and criminality.
Le mura di Bergamo
von Stefano Savona
In the first few months of 2020, huge swathes of Northern Italy were hit by a new virus. The town of Bergamo and its province was to become the epicentre of this pandemic. We see hospitals on the brink of collapse, distraught families and coffins being carried away by military convoy. And this is only the beginning of Stefano Savona’s heartbreakingly detailed and powerful new film. Following the abyss of the darkest days comes an even greater challenge: grieving. People meet to try to understand what has happened and overcome their fear and their pain. Nothing is as it was before and our perception of what we are used to calling life and death has completely changed. Digging into the memory of Bergamo’s recent and not-so-recent past, Savona questions the very notion of documentary cinema and asks: How should he film this interrupted cycle of life and death? How should he accompany survivors as they try to find a new place the world?
Prima della revoluzione
by Bernardo Bertolucci
with Adriana Asti, Francesco Barilli, Allen Midgette, Morando Morandini, Cristina Pariset
Fabrizio, an upper-class youth from Parma, is engaged to marry the daughter of a rich family. But Fabrizio is dissatisfied with the trappings of his class. He sympathises with communism and is close friends with working-class Agostino. After Agostino commits suicide, Fabrizio begins an incestuous affair with his young aunt, Gina. While she encourages the inchoate brooder (“I like you because you’re not a man yet”), he succumbs to melancholy feelings … Shot on Bertolucci’s home ground of Parma, Before the Revolution is a very personal work, sustained by intense dialogue and atmospheric images. It debunks the supposed sweetness of life in ostensibly tidy circumstances. In 1968, Bertolucci said, “There is both a kind of courage and a kind of complacency in my film: courage because the film is a kind of exorcism by which I try to burn the bridges with my childhood and adolescence; and a complacency because this voluntary break with my past produced a few tears on my part. I was twenty-three and I’d never known this ‘sweetness of life’.”
by Nanni Moretti
with Nanni Moretti, Dario Cantarelli, Nicola Di Pinto, Alessandro Haber, Laura Morante
When director Michele Apicella screens his newest movie in film clubs, auditoriums, cinemas, and even a convent, he faces a torrent of criticism, mainly that he hasn’t adequately represented the interests of farmers, housewives, and labourers. Meanwhile, work on his next film also takes a catastrophic turn. Titled “La mamma di Freud”, its lead character is a revenant of the famed psychoanalyst who, like the director himself, lives with his mother in a symbiotic love-hate relationship. On top of that, Michele has to ward off a rival who is making a musical about the 1968 student uprisings. When the two are pitted against each other on a TV game show, the situation takes on nightmarish dimensions. As does Michele’s reunion with a girlfriend who might, however, be purely imaginary … Woody Allen in Annie Hall is a poster child of normality by comparison with the cinema narcissist to whom Nanni Moretti gave form in five autobiographically tinged comedies. Sweet dreams – lauded as a self-reflective satire about the film industry, with the tics and neuroses of filmmakers becoming the real show – won the 1981 Silver Lion in Venice. World premiere of the digitally restored version.
by Ulises de la Orden
Argentina / Italy / France / Norway 2023
1985 is an important year in Argentina’s recent history. In April of that year, nine high-ranking representatives of the military dictatorship (1976 to 1983) were put on trial, on charges including unlawful detention, torture and murder. The verdicts were announced in December.
While Santiago Mitre created a feature film (Argentina 1985) out of the trial, Ulises de la Orden hews closely to the source material, crafting a nearly three-hour-long documentary – El juicio – out of video footage from the courtroom. After viewing more than 500 hours of material, the director condensed and structured it into this artful, spiralling montage. The more witnesses the film allows to have their say, the more irrefutable it becomes that the men in the dock are responsible for acts for which the term “state terror” is too mild, regardless of how unassailable they consider themselves to be. In the end, prosecutor Julio Strassera calls the trial a “descent” – to a place “where the misery, depravity and horror reach a depth that one couldn’t have imagined beforehand, and afterward can barely comprehend.” El juicio is a film upon which the power to imagine and to comprehend depends.
Le proprietà dei metalli
By Antonio Bigini | with Martino Zaccara, Edoardo Marcucci, David Pasquesi, Antonio Buil Pueyo, Enzo Vetrano
GENERATION K PLUS
“The world is full of invisible forces. But people have ended up no longer believing in them.”
An assortment of metal objects lies spread out on the kitchen table in front of Pietro. Closing his eyes, he gingerly stretches out his hand. Word of the boy’s psychokinetic abilities has travelled far beyond the borders of the small Italian village; they say he is able to bend more than just spoons. When a university professor starts paying Pietro regular visits, the experiments are a welcome distraction – for despite the idyllic beauty of the landscape, life here is hard: unsettled debts linger in the air, along with unhealed wounds in the family’s history. A portrait of a world in turmoil; of a place and time in which one boy’s gift seems a beacon of hope, carrying promises of a better life.
A Greyhound of a Girl
by Enzo d’Alò
with Mia O’Connor, Charlene McKenna, Brendan Gleeson, Sharon Horgan, Rosaleen Linehan
Luxembourg / Italy / Ireland / United Kingdom / Estonia / Latvia / Germany 2023
GENERATION K PLUS
“It’s not about being smart or the herbs or the heat or the timing. It’s really all about the heart.”
Granny is the best. While Mary’s home life is ruled by two older brothers, football and ready meals, she shares her grandmother’s rebellious spirit and love of home cooking. But the happy, carefree days in the kitchen with Granny are drawing to a close. At the same time, a mysterious woman appears in Mary’s life, ready to accompany her, her mother and her grandmother on a journey through the family’s history, bringing them all closer together for one last time as they dust off Granny’s past and straighten memories gone askew. The rich colours, sounds, smells and tastes of Ireland form a constant backdrop to Enzo d’Alò’s animated adaptation of a novel by Roddy Doyle, in which death is not the opposite of life, but part of it.
von Francesca de Fusco
mit Eleonora De Luca, Nico Guerzoni, Caterina Scordo
USA / Italy 2023
GENERATION 14plus Kurzfilme 3 / Manifestations: Six queer short films of the 73rd Berlinale
Bergamo, northern Italy. Fede’s days are spent between school and a home run by nuns. In a corridor of the Pensionato, Fede sees Valentina, a new tenant, for the first time. In the middle of a choreography of open, semi-open and closed doors, unknown feelings arise. As sudden as the luminosity of a flashlight entering a room at night. As odd as mixing new flavours. Another world is born inside the one Fede knew, with different questions and possibilities. What does it mean to desire?
by Juan Sebastian Torales | with Nicolás Díaz, Martina Grimaldi, María Soldi, Cali Coronel, Luisa Lucía Paz
France / Argentina / Italy 2023
“He’s not the first boy who’s missing in the forest. The boy that was with him says that a monster has taken him.”
Santiago del Estero, northern Argentina. When Nino is deemed a bad influence to the other boys in his neighbourhood and has to endure homophobic attacks on the streets, his parents temporarily move the family to the countryside. Away from the city, Nino wanders in a forest supposedly haunted by the Almamula, a monster that takes those who commit carnal sins and impure acts. It’s summer: the bodies sweat, the line between dream and reality becomes blurry. A boy disappears. In a world surrounded by whispers, unspoken desires and prayers, Nino’s curiosity and impulses surface. As an escape from a reality flooded with toxicity, repressions, interdictions and imminent violence, the hidden and sensuous mysteries of the forest become increasingly attractive to Nino.
Texts © Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin