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February 2021, berlinale forum

51st Berlinale Forum: Slaloming between Fiction and Documentary

From left to right: Aurielle Akerele in THE INHERITANCE by Ephraim Asili © Mick Bell, ESQUÍ by Manque La Banca © Manque La Banca, A RIVER RUNS, TURNS, ERASES, REPLACES by Shengze Zhu, DOCH RYBAKA by Uldus Bakhtiozina © Uldus Bakhtiozina

Work, love, friendship, cinema: today, all these things have to be managed very differently than a year ago. The certainties we were still able to rely on in autumn 2019 have become porous. In other parts of the world where such uncertainties are part of everyday life, people may well be more practised in dealing with them. In a Western Europe geared to planning and feasibility, we still need to get used to a situation reminiscent of an agility workshop on a permanent loop. Whoever manages to shoot and finish a film under these conditions deserves great respect.

The 17-film selection that makes up the 51st Berlinale Forum focuses on works that deal with uncertainties in the world outside by embracing unpredictability in their plots and structures. It gives preference to the fragile over the proven, with more space dedicated to filmmakers at the start of their careers than their more established colleagues.

Many films take narrative detours, slaloming between fiction and documentary like Manque La Banca’s debut Esquí and dipping into archives to link findings from the past with the present. Jean-Luc Godard’s La chinoise is, for example, subjected to two separate revisions in Ephraim Asili’s The Inheritance and Vincent Meessen’s Juste un movement respectively. In her feature-length debut Sichuan hao nuren, Sabrina Zhao transforms one of Brecht’s learning plays into an opaque cinematic space. Uldus Bakhtiozina’s debut Doch rybaka tells a straightforward fairy tale on the one hand, while filling her fiction with dizzying culture historical pirouettes on the other. Her characters even have the shiniest diamond-encrusted teeth.

It goes without saying that more established filmmakers also form a part of the programme. With The First 54 Years – An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation, Israeli documentarian Avi Mograbi adds to his rich oeuvre with a bitter breakdown of the meaning of occupation. Berlin directors Chris Wright and Stefan Kolbe sound out the possibilities of documentary filmmaking in their usual unflinching manner in Anmaßung. And Thai director Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Jai jumlong is a confident continuation of what has already marked her previous oeuvre (including 2009’s Mundane History): a blend of narrative subtlety with a view of history that cuts deep.

At a time when withdrawing into one’s own country, city, neighbourhood, flat or family is what’s being suggested, there’s a considerable risk that our realms of perception will shrink accordingly. The films of the 51st Berlinale Forum thus act as a considerable help in allowing our thoughts and imaginations to stay open to the outside world.

Forum main programme:

À pas aveugles (From Where They Stood)
France / Germany
by Christophe Cognet
*World premiere

Anmaßung (Anamnesis)
Germany
by Chris Wright, Stefan Kolbe
*World premiere

Doch rybaka (Tzarevna Scaling)
Russian Federation
by Uldus Bakhtiozina
*International premiere
Debut film

Esquí (Ski)
Argentina / Brazil
by Manque La Banca
*World premiere
Debut film

The First 54 Years – An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation
France / Finland / Israel / Germany
by Avi Mograbi
*World premiere

Garderie nocturne (Night Nursery)
Burkina Faso / France / Germany
by Moumouni Sanou
*World premiere
Debut film

The Inheritance
USA
by Ephraim Asili
European premiere
Debut film

Jai jumlong (Come Here)
Thailand
by Anocha Suwichakornpong
*World premiere

Juste un mouvement (Just A Movement)
Belgium / France
by Vincent Meessen
*World premiere

Mbah Jhiwo (Mbah Jhiwo / Ancient Soul)
Spain
by Alvaro Gurrea
*World premiere
Debut film

No táxi do Jack (Jack’s Ride)
Portugal
by Susana Nobre
*World premiere

Qué será del verano (What Will Summer Bring)
Argentina
by Ignacio Ceroi
*World premiere

A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces
USA
by Shengze Zhu
*World premiere

Sichuan hao nuren (The Good Woman of Sichuan)
Canada
by Sabrina Zhao
*World premiere
Debut film

Ste. Anne
Canada
by Rhayne Vermette
*World premiere
Debut film

Taming the Garden
Switzerland / Germany / Georgia
by Salomé Jashi
European premiere

La veduta luminosa (The Luminous View)
Italy / Spain
by Fabrizio Ferraro
*World premiere

 

*World premiere is used to indicate that these films have not been shown to an audience yet. Since they will be available in online screenings to a professional audience (industry and press, during the European Film Market in March) only, they will keep their status World premiere until they will be presented publicly in cinemas or at festivals.

*International premiere is used to indicate that these films have not been shown outside their country of origin yet. Since they will be available in online screenings to a professional audience (industry and press, during the European Film Market in March) only, they will keep their status International premiere until they will be presented publicly in cinemas or at festivals.