Berlin: First Competition Titles Announced

Genius Colin Firth, Jude Law Still 2015

Michael Grandage's 'Genius,' Jeff Nichols' 'Midnight Special' and 'Alone in Berlin' from Vincent Perez will all have their world premiere in competition at the 2016 festival.

The Berlin International Film Festival has announced the first competition and special screening titles for the 2016 event. 

Joining the competition lineup are Boris without Beatrice from Canadian director Denis Cote; real-life literary drama Genius from Michael Grandage and starring Colin Firth, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman; Vincent Perez' Nazi-era Alone in Berlin with Brendan Gleeson, Emma Thompson and Daniel Bruhl; Jeff Nichols' sci-fi thriller Midnight Special starring Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton and Kirsten Dunst; and Zero Days, the documentary about hacking and cyber security from Oscar-winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side). All five films will have their world premiere in Berlin. 

Based on that small sampling, the 2016 Berlinale has gotten off to a good start. Midnight Special, which had been tipped as a Cannes contender last year but wasn't ready in time for the festival, re-teams Nichols with his Take Shelter star Shannon, with the actor this time playing a man on the run from both the government and group of extremists, who are after his son (Jaeden Lieberher), who has special powers.

Genius, a hot pre-seller in Berlin two years ago, is based on A. Scott Berg's National Book Award-winning biography Max Perkins: Editor of Genius and recounts the real-life relationship between literary giant Thomas Wolfe (Law) and renowned editor Max Perkins (Firth), who developed a tender, complex friendship that changed the lives of both men forever. Michael Fassbender was original attached to play Wolfe before being Law replaced him.

Alone in Berlin, a drama based on the novel Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada, is another hotly anticipated title that will first unspool for Berlin audiences. The film follows a working-class couple (Gleeson and Thompson) living in Berlin during World War II who begin a a series of anonymous protests against the Nazi regime. Fallada's novel, originally published in 1947 and based on a real-life couple, was one of the first anti-Nazi books to be published after the war. The book was only translated into English in 2009, but it became a surprise best-seller.

Cote, who won the Alfred Bauer prize in Berlin with his last feature, the lesbian crime drama Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, returns to the Berlinale competition with Boris without Beatrice, a tale of infidelity among the Quebecois elite. 

Documentary fans will be lining up to check out Gibney's latest, Zero Days, a look at cybercrime and the battle between online criminals and the white-hat hackers trying to stop them. 

Berlin has picked three more documentaries as special screenings for the 66th Berlinale. Michael Moore's Where to Invade Next; The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, from Twenty Feet from Stardom director Morgan Neville; and The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger, from the directing team of Colin MacCabe, Christopher Roth, Bartek Dziadosz and Tilda Swinton.

The 2016 Berlin Film Festival kicks off with the Coen Brothers' Hail, Ceasar!, which will screen out of competition.

The 66th Berlinale runs Feb. 11-21, 2016.