From 'Amazing Grace' to 'Voyagers': 24 Titles That Could Heat Up a Lackluster Berlin Market

9:30 AM 2/5/2019

by Scott Roxborough

With box office down throughout Europe, dealmakers are likely to keep the spending to a minimum: "People are gambling more on lower-budget films."

11 Titles That Could Heat Up a Lackluster Berlin Market - Graphic -H 2019
Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

Berlin's 2018 European Film Market was the hottest in ages, with a slew of big and buzzy titles — Roland Emmerich's period epic Maya Lord, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali's Green Book, the Julianne Moore-Michelle Williams starrer After the Wedding, Julia Roberts' Ben Is Back, the genre spoof Kung Fury with Michael Fassbender and Arnold Schwarzenegger — getting snatched up in pricey deals.

Berlin 2019 could be ice cold by comparison. The recent box office drop in Germany and Italy may hamper big EFM deals, and most sellers expect the new streaming companies entering the market — Apple, Disney, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal among them — to take a methodical (read: slow) approach to film acquisitions, at least on the international side. In place of big deals and big films, the business in Berlin this year could be more specialized, whether in the form of awards-bait art house projects, theatrical documentaries or high-concept horror films.

"The fact is there are only a handful of big projects coming to market every year," says Alex Walton of Endeavor Content, whose Berlin slate includes the Aretha Franklin doc Amazing Grace. "People are gambling more on lower-budget, sub-$10 million films, where they see a better chance of an upside."

Endeavor's Aretha Franklin doc is among 24 titles that look like the safest bets for budget-conscious Berlin buyers.




  • 'Amazing Grace'

    DIRECTORS Sydney Pollack, Alan Elliott

    BUZZ Elliott's doc, using footage shot by the late Pollack of Aretha Franklin in 1972, was tied up in legal issues until, after the singer's death in August, her family and filmmakers came to an agreement. It's been getting raves since its world premiere at the 2018 DOC NYC fest and comes to Berlin fresh off a domestic distribution deal with Neon. Expect international buyers to give it the R-E-S-P-E-C-T it deserves.

  • 'Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles'

    DIRECTOR Salvador Simo

    BUZZ The market debut for the Animation Is Film Festival jury award-winning feature, an offbeat tale following master surrealist Bunuel in 1930s Paris as he struggles to find backing for a new film after the scandal elicited by his debut feature, L'Age d'Or.

  • 'Call Jane'

    DIRECTOR Sian Heder

    BUZZ Elisabeth Moss and Susan Sarandon top the cast of this drama from Tallulah director Sian Heder, about a housewife (Moss) in 1960s America who turns to an underground abortion movement led by Virginia (Sarandon), who saves her life and gives her a new sense of purpose.

  • 'The Cave'

    DIRECTOR Tom Waller

    BUZZ The first filmed version of last summer's incredible Thai cave rescue mission to hit the market, The Cave sets out to tell the stories of the unsung heroes behind the 17-day operation to save the Wild Boars boys' soccer team, who were trapped in the flooded Tham Luang cave, more than 2 miles inside the Earth.

  • 'Corporate Animals'

    DIRECTOR Patrick Brice

    BUZZ A team-building trip in New Mexico goes terribly wrong when a big-shot CEO and her employees get stuck underground and the group struggles to survive amidst sexual tension, startling business revelations and casual cannibalism. Demi Moore and Ed Helms star.

    STATUS Completed 

  • 'Farnsworth House'

    DIRECTOR Richard Press

    BUZZ Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ralph Fiennes team up in this fact-based story about the revolutionary Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe (Fiennes) and the fiercely ambitious physician Edith Farnsworth (Gyllenhaal), who hires him to build her the world's first glass house, a project that leads to a tempestuous love affair between the two.

  • 'Follow Me'

    DIRECTOR Will Wernick

    BUZZ A low-budget, high-concept social media thriller from the director of 2017's Escape Room featuring up-and-coming talents Keegan Allen (Pretty Little Liars) and Denzel Whitaker (Black Panther). 

    STATUS Postproduction 

  • 'The Trial of the Chicago 7'

    DIRECTOR Aaron Sorkin

    BUZZ Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sacha Baron Cohen and Seth Rogen star in this true-life drama, based on Sorkin’s screenplay, about the infamous 1969 trial of seven defendants charged by the federal government with conspiracy and more, arising from the countercultural protests in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

    STATUS Preproduction

  • 'The Friend'

    DIRECTOR Gabriela Cowperthwaite

    BUZZ Jason Segel, Dakota Johnson and Casey Affleck are set to star in this true-life drama about a couple, Nicole (Johnson) and Matthew Teague (Affleck), whose best friend (Segel) puts his own life on hold to come live with them when Nicole is given just six months to live.

  • 'Give Me Liberty'

    DIRECTOR Kirill Mikhanovsky

    BUZZ A comedy drama set against the backdrop of Milwaukee, America's most segregated city, this feature from the director of 2006 Cannes Critics Week winner Sonhos de Peixe follows a Russian immigrant working as a medical transport driver torn between helping a young black woman with ALS and ferrying a group of elderly Russians to a funeral.

    STATUS Completed 

  • 'The Heart'

    DIRECTORS Nat Faxon and Jim Rash

    BUZZ Oscar winners Sam Rockwell, Octavia Spencer and Allison Janney team up in this action comedy about the black market organ trade. 

  • 'Knives Out'

    DIRECTOR Rian Johnson

    BUZZ A modern-day reinvention of the murder mystery from the director of Looper and The Last Jedi, with a cast led by Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans and Daniel Craig. 

  • 'Light of My Life'

    DIRECTOR Casey Affleck

    BUZZ Affleck has been relatively quiet since his Oscar win for Manchester by the Sea, but he's set to return to the limelight with this dystopian drama about a "society without women," which he directed and stars in alongside Elisabeth Moss and newcomer Anna Pniowsky.

  • 'M — A City Hunts a Murderer'

    DIRECTOR David Schalko

    BUZZ Berlin's TV-focused Drama Series Days, which runs in the second week of the EFM, has been a key driver of small-screen business in previous years, and this new drama — a reimagining of Fritz Lang's 1931 serial killer classic, set in modern-day Vienna — is certain to attract attention from international broadcasters and streamers alike.

  • 'One Second'

    DIRECTOR Zhang Yimou

    BUZZ Based on a novel by Zhang's frequent collaborator Yan Geling, One Second already has been dubbed the director's love letter to cinema. The film is set during Cultural Revolution-era China — a period only China's most renowned and politically connected helmer would be permitted to touch — and follows a fugitive and a homeless girl who are drawn together by an enigmatic film reel.

  • 'The Power of Love'

    DIRECTOR Valerie Lemercier 

    BUZZ The French multihyphenate is set to direct and star as Celine Dion in this Bohemian Rhapsody-style music biopic on the life of the Canadian diva, featuring a jukebox full of Dion's biggest hits.

  • 'Promising Young Woman'

    DIRECTOR Emerald Fennell

    BUZZ Carey Mulligan plays Cassie, a women bent on revenge on predatory men, in this subversive thriller from the showrunner of television's Killing Eve.

  • 'Reminiscence'

    DIRECTOR Lisa Joy

    BUZZ The Greatest Showman stars Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson team up again for this sci-fi thriller from the co-creator of HBO's Westworld, with a plot centered around a technology that allows you to relive your past, frame by frame.

  • 'Sally Potter Untitled'

    DIRECTOR Sally Potter

    BUZZ Berlin fave Potter has lined up another all-star cast — including Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning, Salma Hayek, Chris Rock and Laura Linney — for this chronicle of a wild day in the life of a man on the edge, held together by the unconditional love of his daughter.

  • 'Silk Road'

    DIRECTOR Tiller Russell

    BUZZ Nick Robinson and Jason Clarke star in this crime drama about the dark web drug baron known as Dread Pirate Roberts and the drug cop who brought him down. 

  • 'Tremors'

    DIRECTOR Jayro Bustamante

    BUZZ Bustamante and the same team behind his Alfred Bauer Prize-winning Ixcanul (2015) return to Berlin with this Guatemala-set LGBT drama, which centers on an evangelical Christian husband and father whose life and community begin to crumble after he falls in love with a man.

  • 'Untitled Amazing Johnathan Documentary'

    DIRECTOR Ben Berman

    BUZZ This genre-bending documentary, which follows a Las Vegas illusionist who defies a fatal cancer diagnosis to embark on a comeback tour, looks like it's aiming to be this year's acclaimed and popular Three Identical Strangers.

  • 'Untitled Drake Doremus Project'

    DIRECTOR Drake Doremus

    BUZZ Franchise vets Shailene Woodley and Jamie Dornan team with Sebastian Stan in this drama about an artist who dumps her boyfriend only to find herself immediately in two passionate romances.

  • 'Voyagers'

    DIRECTOR Neil Burger

    BUZZ Burger's previous experience in the YA space with 2014's Divergent will help the prospects for this dystopian Lord of the Flies-style teen drama about a young space crew that is cut off from adult supervision.

    A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.