Berlin Hot List: 17 Buzz-Worthy Titles at the Film Festival

6:55 AM 2/8/2016

by Rebecca Ford and Scott Roxborough

Wie sagen sie "record sales"? This year's first international film market likely won't set prices afire a la Sundance, but it still has starry projects (Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander) and art house royalty (Wim Wenders, James Schamus).

'The Handmaiden'
Courtesy of CJ Entertainment

Presales, traditionally the bedrock of Berlin's European Film Market, Feb. 11-19 (the festival runs until Feb. 21), look thin on the ground this year. While a few big packages are expected to come together at the eleventh hour, a strong script and A-list talent alone no longer guarantee early interest from international dealmakers. Part of this is because foreign buyers, thanks to a stronger U.S. dollar, are hesitant to commit to major deals for films that won't be made for a year or more. The market for finished or near-finished films, however, looks hotter than ever, thanks in large part to big spenders Netflix and Amazon, which set Sundance alight with their feeding frenzy and could do the same in Berlin. "Many foreign territories are in a similar situation that the U.S. was in a few years ago: Netflix is coming in, and [foreign buyers are] not quite sure how they're going to cooperate with other buyers," says Alex Walton of Bloom. "Obviously there's concern because they're deep pocketed."

Here are 17 titles expected to generate the most heat in chilly Berlin this year.

  1. 1
    17

    Suburbicon

    Bloom, WME and CAA

    DIRECTOR George Clooney

    THE BUZZ One of the hottest projects in Berlin is likely to be this George Clooney-helmed film, which will star Matt Damon and Julianne Moore. Based on a script by Joel and Ethan Coen, Suburbicon follows a seemingly picture perfect family that turns to blackmail, revenge and betrayal after a home invasion turns deadly.

  2. 2
    17

    Soderbergh Project

    Filmnation

    DIRECTOR Steven Soderbergh

    THE BUZZ The top-secret untitled project may be the return of Steven Soderbergh from his directing retirement. It’s described as an Ocean’s 11-style caper film, but with hillbillies, and set during a NASCAR-style race. Channing Tatum is attached to star.

  3. 3
    17

    The Death and Life of John F. Donovan

    Seville

    DIRECTOR Xavier Dolan

    THE BUZZ The 26-year-old Canadian wunderkind makes his English-language debut with this story of a young actor (Kit Harington) who looks back on the pen-pal relationship he used to have with a former Hollywood screen idol. Jessica Chastain and Susan Sarandon also star.

  4. 4
    17

    Free Fire

    Protagonist

    DIRECTOR Ben Wheatley

    THE BUZZ Red-hot Room star (and Oscar favorite) Brie Larson stars in this crime drama set in 1970s Boston from prolific Brit director Wheatley (High-Rise). Martin Scorsese executive produces the film, which already has sold U.S. rights to Alchemy.

  5. 5
    17

    The Handmaiden

    CJ Entertainment

    Courtesy of CJ Entertainment

    DIRECTOR Park Chan-wook

    THE BUZZ The latest from the director of Oldboy and Stoker is an erotic thriller set in 1930s Korea when the country was under Japanese colonial rule. Korean A-lister Ha Jung-woo (Assassination) stars as a con artist who approaches a wealthy heiress with sinister intentions.

  6. 6
    17

    Official Secrets

    The Solution, UTA

    DIRECTOR Justin Chadwick

    THE BUZZ Natalie Dormer plays an intelligence officer who reveals an illegal NSA spy operation to a reporter (Paul Bettany) that puts both their lives in danger. The political thriller touts an A-list cast including Harrison Ford and Anthony Hopkins.

  7. 7
    17

    Manolo

    Content Media

    Courtesy of Content Media Corporation

    DIRECTOR Michael Roberts

    THE BUZZ A doc about the man who turned footwear into a fashion fetish, the first film on Spanish shoe designer Manolo Blahnik seems tailor-made for speciality exhibitors worldwide.

  8. 8
    17

    Stan & Ollie

    BBC Films

    DIRECTOR Jon S. Baird

    THE BUZZ Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel, John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy and a script from Philomena scribe Jeff Pope: Everything about this biopic, which focuses on the comic duo's final U.K. tour, screams awards season.

  9. 9
    17

    Submergence

    Embankment, UTA

    DIRECTOR Wim Wenders

    THE BUZZ Wenders has secured the services of best supporting actress Oscar nominee Alicia Vikander for this romantic thriller, based on J.M. Ledgard's acclaimed 2013 novel about two lovers (Vikander and James McAvoy), separated by thousands of miles (one at the bottom of the ocean, the other a prisoner of jihadis) and forced to take solace in shared memories.

  10. 10
    17

    Tomboy, A Revenger's Tale

    The Solution, ICM Partners

    DIRECTOR Walter Hill

    THE BUZZ This unconven­tional revenge thriller stars Michelle Rodriguez as a hitman who is double-crossed by gangsters and falls into the hands of a rogue surgeon (Sigourney Weaver) who reassigns his gender. Now a woman, she sets out on a trail of revenge.

  11. 11
    17

    A United Kingdom

    Pathe

    DIRECTOR Amma Asante

    THE BUZZ This period piece chronicles the true story of the Prince of Botswana (David Oyelowo), who shocked the world in the 1940s when he married a white woman from London (Rosamund Pike).

  12. 12
    17

    War on Everyone

    Bankside Films

    Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

    DIRECTOR John Michael McDonagh

    THE BUZZ After delivering crossover hits The Guard and Calvary, the London-born director returns with a very dark comedy about corrupt cops in New Mexico.

  13. 13
    17

    Collette

    HanWay

    DIRECTOR Wash Westmoreland

    THE BUZZ Keira Knightley is in talks to star in the historical drama from Number 9 Films and Killer Films (the producers of Carol). She’ll play the famed French novelist who wrote Gigi and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. Wash Westmoreland will direct from a script he co-wrote with his partner and Still Alice co-director, the late Richard Glatzer.

  14. 14
    17

    6 Days

    XYZ, WME

    DIRECTOR Toa Fraser

    THE BUZZ Promo footage will be shown for the political thriller set in 1980 when armed gunmen took hostages at the Iranian Embassy in London. Mark Strong and Abbie Cornish star in the film directed by Toa Fraser.

  15. 15
    17

    The Dinner

    Protagonist, WME

    DIRECTOR Oren Moverman

    THE BUZZ Rebecca Hall, Richard Gere, Laura Linney and Steve Coogan star as a pair of couples who sit down for a tension-filled dinner that reveals how far parents will go to protect their children. Oren Moverman directs based on his own adaptation of Herman Koch’s novel.

  16. 16
    17

    Maradona

    Altitude

    DIRECTOR Asif Kapadia

    THE BUZZ Having already turned the lives and untimely deaths of both racing star Aryten Senna and soul singer Amy Winehouse into award-winning (and commercially-successful) documentaries, British filmmaker Asif Kapadia has set his sights on another cultural icon — infamous Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona.

  17. 17
    17

    Ain't No Half Steppin

    Mister Smith Entertainment.

    DIRECTOR Charles Stone

    THE BUZZ A would-be dance musical franchise along the lines of Pitch Perfect and Step Up, this Broad Green Pictures project focuses on an ambitious black sorority girl who, in order to get into law school, agrees to reveal the closely guarded secrets of Black Greek stepping (the dance style of the Black sororities) to a band of white sorority girls whose charter is about to be revoked.

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