Ever since its creation in 1970, the Forum has had a practice of buying as many prints of films screened during the festival as possible. Unfortunately, we no longer have a copy of the Nigerian director Ola Balogun's feature film "Ija Ominira" which was shown in the 1980 Forum. This loss is all the more tragic in view of the fact that much of Balogun's work has been lost despite his being one of the most important directors in Anglophone Africa.
In the 1970s and 1980s, he influenced the film industry in his country like no other person and paved the way for the Nollywood boom that began in the early 1990s. The fact that he is virtually forgotten outside of Nigeria nowadays is also a function of the fact that many copies of his films have disappeared. Only five of his ten feature-length films are currently available, many of them in a fragile condition. Thanks to the initiative of the Filmkollektiv Frankfurt, which presented Ola Balogun's films in that city in 2015, a large part of Balogun's cinematic oeuvre is accessible again for the first time. We are extremely pleased to be able to show the five feature films and a selection of his shorter documentaries at the Arsenal from January 13-19.
Frank Capra (1897–1991) is ranked among the most successful filmmakers of classical Hollywood cinema. He was the first to have his name billed above the title in the opening credits, and one of the few directors in Hollywood to enjoy far-reaching control over his films. Capra’s own realisation of the American dream — from a poor Sicilian immigrant to one of the highest-paid directors in Hollywood — and the resulting gratitude he felt towards the United States found expression in his films. During the crisis-ridden 1930s, his socially critical and yet conciliatory (tragi-)comedies appealed for a renewal of faith in American values, the freedom of the individual and the victory of justice over cynical profiteers and corrupt politicians. "Maybe there really wasn't an America" that people believed in for all those years, "maybe it was just Frank Capra," speculated John Cassavetes, a member of the following generation of filmmakers. The "Capra Touch" — an emotional brand of cinema with a personal touch, governed by humanistic values and characterised by elegance and wit, perfect timing, snappy dialogue, and excellent direction — conveyed hope and optimism in difficult political and economic times. Capra’s sincere championing of kindness, understanding, compassion, solidarity and brotherly love, combined with the complexity and subtlety of his works, encourages us to suspend our disbelief even in the face of fantastical overcomings of class barriers, miraculous turns of events and at times rather abrupt happy endings.
His belief in the victory of the just cause led the patriot Frank Capra to enlist in the army at the very height of his career. As head of the film branch of the War Department, he produced on commission a dozen documentary films between 1942 and 1945. Our comprehensive retrospective will continue through January 20.
Motion sequences that merge into filmic choreography—arrangements of people in space, orchestration of objects, even constructions of facial expressions and gestures—appear in the most diverse forms and in almost all genres. Beyond precisely coordinated and meticulously timed arrangements of figures, objects, and single movements, exact correlation of tracking shots, storylines and sequences can consolidate into complex cinematic choreographies. Though far from always dancing, they all almost always do have a dancerly element: choreography in film adds rhythm, renders abstract, stylizes, creates pictorial space and webs of relationships, reflects stasis and movement, and results in an often physical cinema. A cinema of compact mise-en-scènes, which, this month, we’ll be exploring in 16 programs.
The 47th Berlinale Forum is showing 43 films in its main programme, 29 of which as world premieres and 10 as international premieres. This year’s Special Screenings will be announced in a further press release.
This year’s programme shines a light on the sheer wealth of forms employed by the documentary, including films from Southeast Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. The spectrum could hardly be broader here, encompassing institutional portraits, long-term observational projects, and works that employ participatory, narrative, essayistic, ethnographic, political and experimental approaches. These are joined by various hybrid forms that cannot be clearly categorised as either fiction or non-fiction. One recurring motif is that of landscape, which is seldom relegated to the status of backdrop, but rather frequently takes on a leading role.
Almost exactly a year after the world premiere of Ulrike Ottinger’s most recent film, the 12-hour opus CHAMISSOS SCHATTEN, at the Berlinale Forum, Arsenal presents the four parts of her large-scale cinematic expedition to the Arctic, along Russia’s easternmost coast and the peninsula of Kamchatka on January 15, 22, 27 & 29. Each screening will be followed by a discussion with Ulrike Ottinger.
Inspired by the accounts of former explorers such as Alexander von Humboldt, Georg Wilhelm Steller, Reinhold und Georg Forster and Adelbert von Chamisso, Ottinger too kept a logbook, linking her own artistic and ethnographic viewpoint to the historical findings and visual depictions. So past and present meet and historical and cultural changes become visible. A field of tension emerges between the then and now, showing how inseparable the two are.
Clemens Klopfenstein, the "rock of Swiss film", has made films with everything that he got his hands and eyes on: he started with 8 mm, moving on to Super8, 16 mm, Super16, 35 mm and then Video8, Video Hi8, analogue then digital. He has lived in Umbria for 40 years, painting, drawing, and producing with a familial Franciscan budget. We are very pleased that on top of our analogue copies digital versions of all of Clemens Klopfenstein’s works are now available from arsenal distribution. These will be joined by three further films that are currently in production in the future.
*Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Chantal Akerman Belgium/France 1975 DCP OV/EnS 202 min
Martha Rainer Werner Fassbinder
FRG 1974 35 mm 116 min
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington USA 1939
With James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold
35 mm OV/GeS 125 min
Preserved by the Library of Congress