The Berlin International Film Festival on Wednesday unveiled the competition lineup for its 70th edition, announcing the films that will vie for the coveted Gold and Silver Bears.
2020 will be a pivotal year for the Berlinale. It is the first festival under the new management of artistic director Carlo Chatrian and executive director Mariette Rissenbeek. The duo replaced Dieter Kosslick, the much-loved, if sometimes controversial, festival director who ran the event from 2001-2019.
The Dutch-born Rissenbeek opened the press conference in German, a language that the Italian Chatrain doesn’t (yet) speak fluently, though he made a heroic effort with a heavily accented, and heavily applauded, introduction before continuing in English, announcing the 18 films in this year’s competition.
The biggest title revealed is the world premiere of Onward, the new Pixar animated tentpole from director Dan Scanlon, which will screen out of competition in Berlin.
Of the competition titles, the lineup featured a very Berlin-esque mixture of European art house and U.S. indie titles with a smattering of films from Asia and Latin America.
Alexanderplatz, a modern-day update of Alfred Döblin’s classic 1929 novel Berlin, Alexanderplatz, will screen in competition in its world premiere. The drama, from German helmer Burhan Qurbani, stars Guinean actor Welket Bungué and Germany’s Jella Hasse. Döblin’s book was famously adapted as a TV miniseries in 1980 by the late German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
U.S. titles in competition this year include Kelly Reichardt’s new feature First Cow, which premiered last year at Telluride; indie director Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always, which was a recent hit at Sundance and which Chatrain described as a model for new feminist cinema; and Siberia, a non-narrative drama starring Willem Dafoe and directed by Abel Ferrara, which the veteran filmmaker initially planned to crowdfund via Kickstarter before Italian group Vivo Film and Germany’s Maze Pictures came on board as producers.
The Roads Not Taken by Berlin veteran Sally Potter, starring Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning and Salma Hayek, will be one of the few star-studded entries in competition this year. Meanwhile, Korean auteur Hong Sangsoo will return to Berlin with his latest, The Woman Who Ran, and Christian Petzold will mark his fourth film in Berlin competition with Undine, a modern-day take on the Greek myth starring Paula Beer, Jacob Matschenz and Franz Rogowski.
HIdden Away, a biopic about self-trained painter Antonio Ligabue, his struggles with mental illness and his friendship with the sculptor Andrea Mozzali, will represent Italy in the fest’s competition section. Elio Germano, who played Italian poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi in Mario Martone’s Leopardi in 2014, stars as Ligabue alongside Andrea Gherpelli as Mozzali in the drama from director Giorgio Diritti (The Man Who Will Come).
Little Sister, from Swiss filmmakers Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond, will also screen in competition. The family drama features German stars Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger and Swiss actress Marthe Keller (Marathon Man).
Other highlights include Delete History from French helmers Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kerven; Bad Tales, a dark fairy tale from Italian filmmakers Damiano D’Innocenzo and Fabio D’Innocenz; and The Salt of Tears from Philippe Garrel, marking the French director’s first film in competition at Berlin.
Further competition titles include The Intruder, a film noir about a dubbing artist from Argentine director Natalia Meta; Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Parnh Irradiated, which will be the only documentary in competition; Days from Tsai Ming-Liang; All the Dead Ones from Caetano Gotando and Marco Dutra; and DAU. Natasha from Ilya Khrzhanovsky and Jekaterina Oertel.
Additionally, There Is No Evil from Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, who is not allowed to work legally in his home country, is set to be one of the most political titles of this year’s lineup.
The 70th Berlin International Film Festival will kick off Feb. 20 with the world premiere of My Salinger Year, a literary drama starring Margaret Qualley and Sigourney Weaver from Canadian director Philippe Falardeau (Monsieur Lazhar). The fest is set to run through March 1.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Abel Ferrara’s Siberia was crowdfinanced.