Saturday night he received the most prestigious award from the Berlin International Film Festival for There Is No Evil (Sheytan Vojud Nadarad), his latest film, dealing with the death penalty in Iran, shot secretly. Prohibited from leaving the country and deprived of permission to film since 2017, Mohammad Rasoulof was unable to fetch his golden bear in person, received by his daughter Baran Rasoulof, who also plays in the film.
This Wednesday, the filmmaker received an order from the court, by text, to immediately surrender to the authorities to serve a year in prison, his lawyer told the international agency Associated Press. The latter however does not intend to comply with the summons and plans to appeal.
This conviction for “endangering the security of the Islamic Republic “ is targeting his previous film, A man of integrity (presented at the Cannes festival in 2017), which testified to the climate of oppression and corruption in his country. Suspected of feeding propaganda against his country in his films, the filmmaker awarded at Cannes in 2011 is regularly targeted by the Iranian regime.
The filmmaker was aware of the sentence passed on him, which was publicly relayed last summer by his peers in a petition denouncing its arbitrary nature. In the interview he gave to Release a few days before the launch of the Berlinale, however, he explained: “Now I’m waiting for the message that will tell me when I have to go back to jail. “
Now that the prize list has fallen, the time has come for a final review of this successful 70e Berlinale, to evoke a few films that have been able to float in the memory of the festival critic exhausted by an overflow of images, German coffee and stuffy pretzels.
Siberia of Abel Ferrara. Vivo film. Maze pictures. Piano
Let’s start with an aberration, which we cannot say whether we like it or not, one of the most awaited films of the competition which created an almost general perplexity: Siberia by Abel Ferrara. It is a series of enigmatic visions and encounters experienced by an American, Clint (Willem Dafoe), running a bar in the middle of Siberia. Memories, dreams, nightmarish or mystical apparitions are linked together in this trip where we guess the clear influence of Andrei Tarkovski. Many critics found the film grotesque, and most of the spectators in the very large room of the Friedrichstadt-Palast, where we saw it, had apparently chosen to consider that they were facing a comedy. We do not hide the fact that certain situations or ideas made us smile and that it is quite difficult to genuinely adhere to this mystical-psychoanalytic peregrination in which Ferrara immerses us in the obscure depths of his imagination. But, in addition to the fact that the film arouses in us the sympathy of unclassifiable and netless objects, it is undeniable that the one who produced it is a real filmmaker, who knows how to create singular images, invent a complex mental space or seize us by a simple connection between two planes. And in a festival where there are so many films in one day, sometimes of great platitude or shapeless blistering, this Siberia so mocked at least had the audacity to explore in its own way nothing less than the twists and turns of cinematic time and space, through those of dream and memory.
Malmkrog by Cristi Puiu. Mandragora
It is in a completely different way that we recognize a strong sense of duration and framework in the long, complex and sometimes sumptuous shots that constitute Malmkrog (presented in the Encounters section), the new film by Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu (discovered in 2005 with the extraordinary the Death of Dante Lazarescu). Shots that are not just the result of a skill in framing and photographing, but that are constantly tended by life and the words that unfold therein. Adapting texts from the Russian philosopher and poet Vladimir Soloviev, this 3:20 am film takes place in a unique place: a mansion in Transylvania where Nikolai, a large landowner, welcomes Christmas friends of aristocrat friends, of different nationalities. Between meals and board games, their main activity consists in sharing their visions of the world, essentially in French, around subjects as big as death, progress, religion, morals. We think of Manoel de Oliveira, with less humor although the film is not devoid of fantasy and strangeness. You can get lost in conversations but it is the very word that matters, the need to keep talking, to think out loud even if it turns out to be increasingly complex and perilous.
Days from Tsai Ming-liang. Homegreen Films
Days by Tsai Ming-liang (in competition) marks the return to fiction after seven years of absence (since stray dogs, in 2013) from another great filmmaker of the plan, of their slow deployment over time. He is equal to himself in his new film where, far from Puiu’s talks, almost no words are spoken. Again, he becomes attached to solitudes that will eventually intersect. In the countryside, a man (Lee Kang-sheng, the filmmaker’s favorite actor since his first film) with tired and slow gestures, seems to be bored and suffering physically, requiring baths, massages and acupuncture sessions; in the city, a younger man, on the contrary, is distinguished by the dexterity of his gestures, especially when he is washing food and cooking it. In the montage that shows them evolving in parallel, elements visible in almost every plane already unite them: water, fire, plants, present in many forms. The film is tied to the meeting of the two men where, for the time of a sensual and then sexual massage, the skillful hands of the first relieve the tired body of the second, until enjoyment. It is very clear and very beautiful, no offense to the impatient.
The Woman Who Ran from Hong Sang-soo. Jeonwonsa Film Co. Production
In Hong Sang-soo, the precision and rigor of the plans is not as obvious as in Puiu or Tsai. The Korean filmmaker, who claims Rohmer’s influence, again appears in The Woman Who Ran (presented in competition) a lightness and a simplicity that the frames, panoramas or zooms scrutinize with acuity but without will to artificially embellish their obviousness. A young woman (the magnificent filmmaker’s muse Kim Minhee) takes advantage of her husband’s business trip to visit three former friends. Through their conversations mixing very concrete and material subjects – the price of things, neighborhood problems, food, vegetarianism -, Hong deals in his own way with very contemporary questions, with a humor that gradually turns to melancholy . Ultimately, this film in which the few men who appear are troublesome and essentially filmed from behind, evokes a certain female solitude, chosen or suffered. To cold surveillance camera shots, Hong sets his gaze on the lookout, available to prodigious chances, such as this camera movement which reveals a perfectly placed and attentive cat at the end of a long shot where the stake of the conversation was precisely the presence of cats in the vicinity. A plan so miraculous that it sparked applause in an entire room of criticism in Berlin.
In the recesses of the parallel selections, a few films with modest means made, like Hong Sang-soo, of their economic poverty an engine of freshness and vitality. In Boarding (Panorama section), the new film by Guillaume Brac, declared admirer of the Korean filmmaker, we follow the summer getaway of two friends going to find in the Drôme the conquest of an evening of one of them. As in July tales (2018), Brac turns again with young actors from the National Conservatory of Dramatic Art, rediscovering something of the adventurous spirit of Jacques Rozier’s films but by matching it to the languages, cultures and customs of a very contemporary youth . As always with Brac, under his apparent humility the film is precise and dense, in addition to being funny and extremely endearing.
In Isabella (presented to Encounters), the Argentinian Matías Piñeiro films another friendly adventure, but coupled with an ambiguous rivalry. Two young theater actresses apply for the same role, that of Isabella in Measure for measure of William Shakespeare, while the brother of one is the lover of the other. It is a film about envy, in the double sense of the word – desire and jealousy – where the Rivetian play with the theater is made more complex (something new in Piñeiro) by a play with chronology and a formalism which sometimes leads to on an abstraction of colors and shapes. A captivating and confusing film that will perhaps be enjoyed above all by those who already know Piñeiro’s cinema, all the elements of which (theater, friendship, acting, speech) are here reorganized in a more free and mysterious way.
Finally, one of the great discoveries of the festival was A metamorfose dos pássaros, the first feature by Portuguese catarina Vasconcelos (presented at Encounters), shot for less than 100,000 euros. It is a biography of the filmmaker’s own family, of his grandparents and parents, reconstituted in beautiful fine-line shots essentially framing gestures, objects, photographs, and playing on materials, colors, simple visual effects (the recurrent use of a magnifying glass, for example) while voiceovers follow one another to evoke moments in the life of each. Imagine a Cavalier film filmed by Manoel de Oliveira (still him) to get an idea of the beauty and originality of this minimalist and poetic family novel. The kind of unexpected little pearls that we always hope to find in this clutter of films that is a film festival as bloated as the Berlinale.
The number of beautiful films presented this year in competition at the Berlinale validated the requirement that we were entitled to expect from the new direction of the festival, embodied by Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, while making any prognosis difficult. on the charts, revealed on Saturday evening. By awarding the golden bear to There Is No Evil of the Iranian Mohammad Rasoulof, the jury chaired by Jeremy Irons was able to celebrate an important filmmaker, while making a strong political gesture.
We couldn’t see the film that won the jury’s grand prize, Never Rarely Sometimes Always from the American Eliza Hittman, but her subject – the obstacle course of a minor to abort – is certainly not unrelated to her place on the charts, especially since at the beginning of the festival, Irons had been ordered to publicly exonerate reactionary remarks, notably against abortion, which he once made and which almost called into question his presence here.
Read alsoMohammad Rasoulof, center of resistance
Another political symptom: the silver bear awarded to the French Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern for Clear history. Centered on three neighbors of a soulless suburban district, old disillusioned yellow vests, united by the accumulation of their misfortunes (unemployment, divorce, mourning, over-indebtedness), this fairly successful black comedy catalogs all the new forms of technologies, sales, credits, jobs supposed to make life easier but complicate it until it turns into a cold hell.
The Woman Who Ran, one of the festival’s biggest celebrations was the latest film by the highly productive South Korean Hong Sang-soo, winner of the best director’s silver bear award. Clear, bright, funny, it is made up of three parts corresponding to the three visits to former friends authorized by a young woman (Kim Min-hee, muse of the filmmaker’s latest films) whose possessive husband went on a trip to ‘business.
However, some absences shone during this award ceremony. Considering the moralizing comments that he provoked in part of the international press (read Release February 26), it was predictable that the very beautiful yet Salt of tears by Philippe Garrel is excluded from the charts. But forgetting the magnificent First cow by Kelly Reichardt is more inexplicable and unfair. Another unfortunate omission: Days which marks the moving return to the fiction of the Taiwanese Tsai Ming-liang. We will come back to this in our review of the festival on Wednesday.
BErlinale-experienced observers had to be clear since Friday – 30 hours before the award ceremony – who would win the Golden Bear of the 70th Film Festival. The last candidate of the competition was shown on Friday afternoon and it matched the bear prey scheme so clearly that there was hardly any doubt left.
“There is no evil” is a film from Iran, comes from a politically persecuted director and deals with the effects of the death penalty, a human rights issue. In addition, you have to admit, there hasn’t been a better film in the entire competition.
And so Monika Grütters, Minister of Culture, one of the main donors for the festival, was delighted: “For the second time, the Berlinale is supporting the persecuted artists in Iran and emphasizing the role of the arts in authoritarian regimes.” After the Golden Bear for Jafar Panahi In 2015, Mohammad Rasoulof was again honored as an Iranian director, whom the regime has banned from leaving the country. “At the Berlinale, art triumphs over the sinister power of the prohibitions and sends out a signal of hope. I am also pleased that this outstanding film has been made possible with funding from Germany. “
So so. So didn’t much change with the debut of the new festival director Chatrian after 18 Kosslick years? One can confidently assume that Rasoulof’s film ended up in Berlin due to the strong connections that were built during Kosslick’s time to the Iranian film opposition; this can also be assumed from one of the strongest “Forum” films, Nader Saeivars “Namo”, whose screenplay was written by the officially ostracized Jafar Panahi.
The Iranian filmmaking community has – as long as it steadfastly refuses to go into exile and perseveres in the persecution at home – has developed a tactic of turning proxy; this strategy goes back to Yilmaz Güney from Turkey, whose “Yol” was filmed by a colleague in 1981 according to his precise instructions and won the Golden Palm in Cannes.
Based on what is known about the story of “There is no Evil”, four separate filming permits were applied for – and the name of Rasoulof, who was given a lifelong ban on filming by the mullahs, was not applied. Iranian censorship pays less attention to short films, so the four episodes were actually allowed to be shot and put together to form a complete film. Rasoulof sent his assistant directors to scenes in public places such as Tehran Airport, scenes in apartments or in the country Rasoulof staged himself.
The four parts have no continuous characters, but one theme: Can individuals living under a criminal regime have the courage to resist this regime? All figures face the same question: Should I take part in executions or not? The consequences of a “no” range from the loss of wealth (in the case of a professional executioner) to the obstruction of the whole future (for conscripts who refuse to kick the chair under what is to be hung).
“There is no Evil” is a completely clear, unashamed film that some scrutinize for due to a lack of subtlety. It does not correspond to the image of the allegorical Iranian cinema that the West has known for a quarter of a century and likes to honor at its festivals. But this directness is the challenge for those in power, because at some point allegorical cloak becomes a habit of submission, with which such a dictatorship lives, which it can even show as proof of its permissiveness abroad (although such films are of course never shown domestically and at most circulate secretly on black-burned DVDs).
In this respect, the festival has found a worthy bear bearer, but this does not answer the question of what the change at the top of the festival has brought. Now the Berlinale has to serve two very different interests. Much more than Cannes and Venice, it is an event for the regional audience that willingly queues for films during these ten days that it would never leave its four walls for the rest of the year; this 70th Berlinale seems to have set a new audience record.
But now the Berlinale has to maintain its place among the world’s leading festivals, and that is a question of international renown. In recent years, the Kosslick Festival has been caught between the millstones of Cannes (which magically attracts the best author films) and Venice (which Hollywood likes to use as a gallop for its Oscar candidates). In between, Chatrian was asked to find a third way.
After the past two weeks, this third way is at most vague. The opening film was as friendly and irrelevant as often at Kosslick, hardly any of the following films could not have appeared in a Kosslick competition, Chatrian’s new series “Encounters” won little profile of its own, and the jury awarded one of the actors in good old tradition- Bears to Germany (to Paula Beer in Christian Petzold’s “Undine”).
It is clear that this third way can only lead through the directors, through young filmmakers who have to be convinced that Berlin is the best possible launch pad for their works; Hollywood can be more or less forgotten, Berlin is completely wrong on the calendar for its marketing.
Chatrian’s best catch in his first year is Mohammad Rasoulof, who has always been to Cannes and took prizes there every time. The Americans Kelly Reichardt (“First Cow”) and Eliza Hittman (“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”, Grand Jury Prize) are now Berlinale-socialized, and important Asians (Tsai Ming-Liang, Hong Sansoo, Jia Zhang-ke) were able to once again be lured away from Cannes. For the future: “Vedremo” – as Carlo Chatrian would say.
After a 70th edition with political overtones, the Berlinale awarded the Golden Bear to There is No Evil, a film by Iranian dissident Mohammad Rasoulof, banned from leaving his country. His film deals in four sequences with the death penalty, a taboo subject in Iran, seen by the executioners and the families of the victims.
Rasoulof was already awarded in 2017 in Cannes for A man of integrity, which earned him a sentence two years later, two years’ travel ban and a prison sentence. Rasoulof was also forbidden to shoot, so it was necessary to use subterfuges to make the film. “Mohammad was talking about it four months ago, at that time, we didn’t know if he would go to prison, so we decided to do it as soon as possible”, said producer Farzad Pak.
Reached by phone after the ceremony, the director seemed happy but tired: “The film is about people taking responsibility for their actions. The hardest part of making a decision is justifying it “. He also wanted to salute the courage of the whole team before the press. “Who put his life in danger for being in the film”.
“There is no evil”
Confirming its committed dimension, the Berlinale also rewarded Never rarely sometimes always from American Eliza Hittman, on abortion. The film won the Grand Jury Prize (Silver Bear). Without pathos, he follows in the footsteps of 17-year-old Autumn, who travels to New York with his cousin to have an abortion.
To read, from our special correspondent in Berlin:At the Berlinale, being is essential
“There are very prominent topics today but we have to make our choices based on the story, on how the film works with an audience”, warned Jeremy Irons, the British actor who presided over the jury, when asked about the #MeToo movement. After the reappearance of an interview where he made remarks deemed sexist, the 71-year-old actor had to make a point on the first day of the festival, showing his support for the right to abortion, gay marriage and movements defending women against harassment.
This controversy is not the only one that marked the beginnings of the festival. Revelations about the Nazi past of a former director of the Berlinale forced the Alfred-Bauer Prize to be turned into a Silver Bear.
“The Woman who ran”
Other award-winning films include French Clear history by the duo Benoît Delépine-Gustave Kerven, comedy about our digital habits (Special silver bear for the 70th edition of the festival) and in another register, irradiated by Rithy Panh, prize for best documentary, which confronts the viewer with poignant images of Hiroshima and the Shoah. The South Korean Hang Sang-soo was finally crowned best director for The Woman Who Ran, with her favorite actress Kim Min-hee.
Italian Elio Germano and German Paula Beer were rewarded for their respective roles in Hidden away, portrait of a marginal Italian painter and Undine, aquatic fable and in love with Christian Petzold.
SAD. Natasha, who created controversy over scenes of physical and psychological violence, was awarded a prize by his director of photography, German Jürgen Jürges, known for his collaborations with Fassbinder and Wim Wenders. He received the Silver Bear for best artistic contribution on Saturday. The film by Russian Ilya Khrzhanovsky is part of a monumental experimental project in which 400 volunteers were filmed for two years in a replica of a Soviet scientific city in Ukraine. An experience which gave birth to fifteen films on the totalitarian experience.
WIf the Berlinale were a department in a video store, we urgently need to clean it up.
In the competition alone, i.e. apart from the countless subsections and sub-sections, Argentine horror films encounter Korean living room soaps, Russian USSR simulations encounter American drama about dementia, sensitive abortion stories on formally ambitious fairy tales, cynical social satire and post-migrant heroic epics. (Because all of this is only possible with subtitles, the Berlinale is half a literary festival.)
Dhe virus spared the Berlinale. This is the best news at the end of this year’s Berlin Film Festival, because if the Corona epidemic had only reached Europe a few weeks earlier, the festival would probably have been canceled. That would have been a disaster for the Berlinale, which took place for the seventieth time this year. None of the major film festivals is as international as this, none has as many trade visitors from all over the world. Above all, no other film festival brings nearly as many viewers to the cinemas. A good 270,000 tickets had been sold by Wednesday; after the closing day on Saturday, there could be another 80,000. The mass medium, which is still the cinema, is nowhere as impressive as in Berlin.
This year, for the first time in its history, the festival had a dual leadership. The Italian Carlo Chatrian, the artistic director, and the Dutchwoman Mariette Rissenbeek, the managing director, were also named because their predecessor Dieter Kosslick had the reputation that he had too little time for the core business of film selection due to sheer obligations. It has long been said that there were too many second- and even third-class films in the Berlinale competition; this weakens the position of the festival compared to its competitors Cannes and Venice. With the appointment of the former film critic Chatrian, there was hope that the main program would now be looked at more closely. In fact, the extreme low blows in the competition failed to materialize this time. Nevertheless, there were no more really great and worthwhile contributions than usual.
The controversial film “DAU. Natasha ”, who shows a sexualized torture scene, splits the Berlinale. The film has already been banned in Russia. Has director Ilja Chrschanowski exceeded the limits of what is morally tolerable with his film project? ,
Franz Biberkopf has blond hair, is a “rough, undefeated man with a repulsive exterior” and “strong as a cobra snake”, writes Alfred Döblin about the tragic hero of his Novel “Berlin Alexanderplatz”, First a transport worker, he developed into a pimp and killed his girlfriend in affect. When he is released, he plunges into the Berlin underworld milieu of 1929. He now wants to live a good life, but the Moloch Berlin doesn’t let him.
The black refugee Francis in the remake of “Alexanderplatz” has about as many chances for a civil existence as the ex-prisoner Franz in Berlin 90 years ago. You could iron it on social drama or on migrant morality or on anti-capitalism pamphlet – but the size of Burhan Qurbani’s updated “Berlin Alexanderplatz” is that it follows its own fascinating path.
Döblin’s novel is one of the most important examples of 20th century German literature, and countless students were confronted with it – and also overwhelmed. One of these students was Burhan Qurbani, son of refugees from Afghanistan born in the Rhineland in 1980, and he couldn’t do anything with Döblin’s poeticization of the big city and fought his way grimly from page 1 to page 584. Then he put the book aside in relief – until he picked it up again almost two decades later.
The oath: I want to be good
He imagined another beaver head. A black, a refugee from Africa in contemporary Berlin. When he was washed up half dead on a European beach, he too made an oath to want to be good because God saved him.
Now he works as an illegal in Berlin, in the giant tubes of the new subway, which you dig in Unter den Linden, and when a comrade is seriously injured in an accident, he carries him upstairs, he wants to be good. He calls an ambulance and is thrown out by his boss, because it could expose that people without papers are busy, that is: exploited. It doesn’t pay to be good.
Qurbani’s three-hour film isn’t a whole lot. No remake of Fassbinder’s series “Alexanderplatz”, which was currently on TV when Qurbani was born. None of these kitsching on the twenties that are just so popular. And also no contribution to the raging debate about migrants, on which the fate of this country is supposed to be decided.
Albrecht Schuch is sensational
Qurbani’s “Berlin Alexanderplatz” eludes all of this. He is amazingly loyal to Döblin. His Franz is called Francis – the extremely physically present Welket Bungué – and takes on the name Franz in the course of the film. He will be anchored three times by the temptation of evil, three times he will resist and three times he will succumb to him.
There is also Reinhold, the humiliator and human spoiler, and what Albrecht Schuch does with the role is simply sensational. There is also Mieze – the highly differentiated Jella Haase, who makes you forget that she was ever the chubby Chantal – that Biberkopf sends on the line. But she is no longer the shy schoolgirl, but a self-determined I-AG escort entrepreneur, and not Franz chooses the kitty, but the kitty Francis.
This creates a Berlin universe that is at the same time döblinsch and today and yet not at all the city that we know from “Berlin, Berlin” films. It is decoupled from the twenties nostalgia, it is decoupled from the migration debate and yet almost in passing it negotiates fundamental controversies of our time: the relationship between the sexes, the crisis of the man, and a social order that drives people in situations in which they are can no longer act well, but must act badly.
Large, expressive cinema pictures
This film has a vision that cannot be said of many films these days, and it is Qurbani’s vision. Alexanderplatz, the cars rushing into the jewelery shop window, the migrant accommodation, the excesses of a generation who would rather not know what their future looks like – all of this is a recognizable present and yet timelessly universal. Above all, we learn something about the human condition and how it finds expression in the conditions of an all-against-all society.
Good cannot remain good, and sometimes evil deserves pity, fate strikes relentlessly and hope can sprout from despair. These are general places first of all, but the wonderful thing about Qurbani is how they transform into flesh and blood and pulsating life in his third feature film (after “Shahada” and “We are young. We are strong”) – and into big, expressive cinema pictures that we only see in a German film every jubilee year.