Berlin Film Festival Unveils Competition Lineup

Tahar Rahim and Jodie Foster in The Mauritanian
Courtesy of STX Entertainment

Rahim as Mohamedou Ould Slahi and Foster as Nancy Hollander in STX Entertainment’s 'The Mauritanian.'

The Berlin International Film Festival has unveiled the films that will compete in the 2021 Berlinale, which will take place online in March and in-person in the German capital in June.

The Berlin Film Festival on Thursday unveiled the titles that will compete in the 2021 Berlinale as well as the high-profile features screening out of competition in Berlin's Berlinale Specials section.

Albatross from French director Xavier Beauvois (Of Gods and Men), Introduction by acclaimed Korean director Hong Sangsoo (The Woman Who Ran), Petite Maman from Portrait of a Lady on Fire director Céline Sciamma; and I'm Your Man, described as a sci-fi romantic comedy starring Toni Erdmann's Sandra Hüller, from German filmmaker Maria Schrader (Emmy winner for Netflix's Unorthodox) are among the high-profile arthouse titles that will have their world premieres in competition in Berlin this year. Next Door, the directorial debut of German acting star Daniel Brühl (Captain America: Civil War) will also debut in competition in Berlin.

Romanian director Radu Jude, a Berlin Silver Bear winner for his 2015 period drama Aferim!, returns to the Berlin competition with his latest, the intriguingly-titled Bad Luck Banging or Looney Porn, the story of a school teacher who finds her career and reputation under threat after a personal sex tape is leaked on the Internet.

Lebanese filmmakers Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige Maia (2008's Cannes Un Certain Regard entry I Want to See) will make their Berlin debut with Memory Box. The drama, set in Montreal, follows a single mother who is confronted with memories of her past —as a teenager during the Lebanese civil war of the 1980s.

Among the Berlinale Special titles, of high-profile films screening outside competition, highlights include Azazel Jacobs's French Exit starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges, Kevin Macdonald's real-life thriller The Mauritanian, which stars Tahar Rahim as Mohamedou Ould Salahi, who spent years fighting for release after being detained and imprisoned without charge by the U.S. government (Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley, and Benedict Cumberbatch co-star); Language Lessons by Natalie Morales, in which she co-stars alongside Mark Duplass, and  Lina Roessler's comedy Best Sellers featuring Aubrey Plaza, Cary Elwes, and Michael Caine.

Tina, the new music documentary from directors Dan Lindsay and T. J. Martin, on legendary soul and rock singer Tina Turner, will also have its world premiere as a Berlinale Special.

Berlin announced its competition lineup via a live-streamed press conference on Thursday with festival executive director Mariette Rissenbeek and artistic director Carlo Chatrian. Both presented, socially-distanced, from an empty cinema in Berlin.

The 71st Berlin festival will be a unique event. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Berlin 2021 will be split into two stages. From March 1 through March 5, the festival will hold an online-only event mainly for the international industry. The European Film Market will also go virtual, following a model established last year by the likes of Cannes and the American Film Market in Santa Monica.

An in-person festival in the German capital, with red-carpet screenings and gala events, is planned for June 9-June 20.

Berlin unveiled its 2021 lineup in stages this week, announcing the films making up its Panorama, Forum, and Generation sidebars, as well as the movies in its Encounters and Retrospective sections ahead of the competition announcement on Thursday.

Judging this year's competition will be a six-person jury made up of former winners of the Berlinale's Golden Bear for best film.  They include Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, last year's winner for There Is No Evil; Nadav Lapid from Israel, whose Synonyms won top honors in 2019; Romanian filmmaker Adina Pintilie, director of controversial 2018 winner Touch Me Not; Hungary's Ildiko Enyedi, Golden Bear winner for On Body and Soul (2017); Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi, whose refugee documentary Fire at Sea took Berlin's top prize in 2016; and Bosnia director Jasmila Zbanic, winner for Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams in 2006.

Berlin is one of many film festivals improvising this year amid the second wave of COVID-19 which has led to lockdown measures across much of the world. Sundance 2021 was a largely virtual affair, as was this year's Göteborg Film Festival, Scandinavia's largest, which wrapped last week.

Cannes, which had to cancel its 2020 event because of coronavirus, has already pushed back this year's festival, which is now scheduled for July, from its initial dates in May.

Rotterdam, one of the most important events for the international independent scene, has taken the Berlin route and split its festival in two, holding a virtual fest for the industry in February, and an in-person event set for early summer.

The Berlinale was the last major European festival to be held before the continent went into COVID-19 lockdown in early March.

Full list of films in 2021 Berlinale competition

COMPETITION

Albatros (Drift Away) (France), dir. Xavier Beauvois

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Romania / Luxemburg / Croatia / Czech Republic), dir. Radu Jude

Fabian - Going to the Dogs (Germany), dir. Dominik Graf

Ballad of a White Cow (Iran / France), dir.  Behtash Sanaeeha, Maryam Moghaddam

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Japan), dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Mr. Bachmann and His Class (Germany), dir. Maria Speth

I'm Your Man (Germany), dir. Maria Schrader

Introduction (Korea), dir. Hong Sangsoo

Memory Box (France / Lebanon / Canada / Qatar), dir. Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige

Next Door (Germany), Daniel Brühl

Petite Maman (France), dir. Céline Sciamma

What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? (Germany / Georgia), dir. Alexandre Koberidze

Forest - I See You Everywhere (Hungary), dir. Bence Fliegauf

Natural Light (Hungary / Latvia / France / Germany), dir. Dénes Nagy

A Cop Movie (Mexico), dir. Alonso Ruizpalacios

BERLINALE SPECIAL 

Best Sellers (Canada / United Kingdom), dir. Lina Roessler

Courage (Germany), dir. Aliaksei Paluyan

French Exit (Canada / Ireland), dir. Azazel Jacobs

Je suis Karl (Germany / Czech Republic), dir. Christian Schwochow

Language Lessons (USA), dir. Natalie Morales

Limbo (Hong Kong / People’s Republic of China), dir.Cheang Soi

The Mauritanian (United Kingdom), dir. Kevin Macdonald

For Lucio (Italy), dir. Pietro Marcello

Tides (Germany / Switzerland), dir. Tim Fehlbaum

Tina (USA), dir.Dan Lindsay, T. J. Martin

Who We Were (Germany) dir. Marc Bauder