Berlin Film Festival Unveils Forum Lineup

© Lisa Pictures
'MS Slavic 7'

Literary adaptations and African drama will be in focus in Berlin's sidebar of avant-garde cinema.

The Berlin International Film Festival on Friday unveiled the lineup for its Forum sidebar of avant-garde cinema, with fictional and documentary titles from across Europe, Africa and South America among the highlights.

Literary adaptations — from Rita Azevedo Gomes’s costume drama The Portuguese Woman, based on the Robert Musil novella, to Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska's adaptation of Elfriede Jelinek’s ghost novel The Children of the Dead to Ghassan Salhab’s essayistic collage An Open Rose, inspired by letters from prison from legendary leftist martyr Rosa Luxemburg — are a major focus in the Forum program this year.

The Plagiarists, from American director Peter Parlow, uses Karl Ove Knausgard’s best-selling novel series My Struggle as a starting-off point for a drama about a verbose young couple and an examination of literature and film, while MS Slavic 7, from Canadian directors Sofia Bohdanowicz and Deragh Campbell, tells the story of a young woman working as a literary executor of the estate of her great-grandmother, a Polish poet who emigrated to Canada.

Three African and three Brazilian films made the Forum cut this year. Mischa Hedinger's African Mirror uses archive material to examine the impact of Swiss filmmaker and travel writer Rene Gardi, whose work, from the 1950s onwards, helped shape the Western world's view of the continent. Serpentarius, from Angolian director Carlos Conceicao, is a sci-fi film set in an devastated African landscape. And in Mother, I Am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You, director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, now living in exile, bids goodbye to his homeland: the southern African enclave of Lesotho.

Politics pervades this year's Brazilian entries, including Landless, a look at the country's Landless Workers’ Movement, from first-time filmmaker Camila Freitas; The Blue Flower of Novalis, a documentary portrait, by helmers Gustavo Vinagre and Rodrigo Carneiro, of the 40-year-old HIV positive Marcelo; and Homing, a feature from Helvecio Marins Jr., which looks at Brazil's rural-urban divide through its story of a cowboy who leaves the ranch to seek his fortune as a master of ceremonies at rodeo shows.  

Fans of art house documentaries will find their fill at the 49th Forum, with new experimental non-fiction, including Our Defeats, in which French director Jean-Gabriel Periot's restages scenes from the 1968 protests with modern-day French students; and Thomas Heise's Heimat Is a Space in Time, which traces the story of the German director's family, and that of Germany itself, over four generations.

The Berlin International Film Festival is set to Feb. 7-17.

The full 2019 Forum lineup is below.

African Mirror, Director: Mischa Hedinger
And Your Bird Can Sing, Director:  Sho Miyake
An Open Rose, Director: Ghassan Salhab
A Russian Youth, Director: Alexander Zolotukhin
Bait, Director: Mark Jenkin
Belonging, Director: Burak Cevik
Breathless Animals, Director: Lei Lei
Demons, Director: Daniel Hui
Earth, Director: Nikolaus Geyrhalter
Far From Us, Director: Verena Kuri, Laura Bierbrauer
Fourteen, Director: Dan Sallitt
From Tomorrow On, I Will, Director: Ivan Markovic, Wu Linfeng
Fukuoka, Director: Zhang Lu
Heimat Is a Space in Time, Director: Thomas Heise
Homing, Director:  Helvecio Marins Jr.
Hormigas, Director: Antonella Sudasassi Furniss
Just Don't Think I'll Scream, Director: Frank Beauvais
Khartoum Offside, Director: Marwa Zein
Landless, Director: Camila Freitas
Lapu, Director:  Cesar Alejandro Jaimes, Juan Pablo Polanco
Leakage, Director: Suzan Iravanian
Man You (Vanishing Days), Director: Zhu Xin
Monsters, Director: Marius Olteanu
Mother, I Am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You, Director: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese
Music and Apocalypse, Director: Max Linz
MS Slavic 7, Director: Sofia Bohdanowicz, Deragh Campbell
Olanda, Director: Bernd Schoch
Our Defeats, Director: Jean-Gabriel Periot
Progress in the Valley of the People Who Don’t Know, Director: Florian Kunert
Retrospekt, Director: Esther Rots
Serpentarius, Director: Carlos ConceiCao
So Pretty, Director: Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli
The Blue Flower of Novalis, Director: Gustavo Vinagre, Rodrigo Carneiro
The Children of the Dead, Director: Kelly Copper, Pavol Liska
The Last to See Them, Director: Sara Summa
The Plagiarists, Director: Peter Parlow
The Portuguese Woman, Director: Rita Azevedo Gomes
The Stone Speakers, Director: Igor Drljaca
Years of Construction, Director: Heinz Emigholz