Festival Review - Berlinale 2018

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 3.53.44 PM.png

The Bushwick Film Festival loves when independent films and filmmakers are put into the spotlight, and few festivals shine it brighter than the Berlinale. The festival offers an intriguing mix of Hollywood glamour, international powerhouses and up-and-coming filmmakers, as well as one of the largest film markets in the world. But what really sets the festival apart, is its accessibility and public acceptance, with audiences lining up venue after venue and independent films drawing crowds of up to 1,000 people. At ten in the morning, mind you. Another aspect filmmakers and audiences can appreciate alike, is the high standard of presentation. While some festivals may seem to think louder is better or simply lack the infrastructure (yes, Bushwick needs a proper movie theatre!), the Berlinale excels with high-end hardware, crisp sound and amazing venues like the Friedrichstadt Palast, Kino International and many more. As Steven Soderbergh pointed out before his world premiere of Unsane at the Berlinale Palast: “This movie may never look as good again as here.” He may be right. Read our take on a few more films we caught, follow the Bushwick Film Festival on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and don’t forget to submit your film!

  Photo Credit: T. Zingler, BFF

Photo Credit: T. Zingler, BFF

  'Isle of Dogs' directed by Wes Anderson    The Berlinale’s opening night film comes with a lot of star power and fanfare. In a somewhat dystopian Japan all dogs have been banished to remote Trash Island. A young boy named Atari sets out on a rescue mission for his beloved Spots and crashes on the island. Complicating matters is the fact that Atari is the adopted child of the mastermind behind the K9 exile. The film struts with detail and is another masterpiece of stop-motion style animation. It’s quirky and the story has its moments, letting the viewer temporarily look past the animation onslaught and indulge into the characters, a huge achievement for a film that is visually so different. Still, overall, there aren’t too many surprises and it feels like the film runs out of time at the end, rushing towards a conclusion. Nevertheless, this is a must-see for Wes Anderson fans.

'Isle of Dogs' directed by Wes Anderson

The Berlinale’s opening night film comes with a lot of star power and fanfare. In a somewhat dystopian Japan all dogs have been banished to remote Trash Island. A young boy named Atari sets out on a rescue mission for his beloved Spots and crashes on the island. Complicating matters is the fact that Atari is the adopted child of the mastermind behind the K9 exile. The film struts with detail and is another masterpiece of stop-motion style animation. It’s quirky and the story has its moments, letting the viewer temporarily look past the animation onslaught and indulge into the characters, a huge achievement for a film that is visually so different. Still, overall, there aren’t too many surprises and it feels like the film runs out of time at the end, rushing towards a conclusion. Nevertheless, this is a must-see for Wes Anderson fans.

  'Black 47' directed by Lance Daly    British Imperialism has been the backdrop for a lot of blockbuster movies from Braveheart to Gandhi, but the English involvement in the Great Famine in Ireland has largely gone unnoticed cinematically, according to the makers of Black 47. An Irish Ranger desserts from British forces and after finding his loved ones deceased and wronged upon his return, goes on a killing spree, working his way up from local henchman to British lord. Not even Hugo Weaving as the good antagonist gone bad and good again, can salvage this very predictable film. While some of the imagery is indeed disturbing and effective in portraying the unfathomable plight of the people, the film does little to transform the viewers disgust into a more meaningful emotion.

'Black 47' directed by Lance Daly

British Imperialism has been the backdrop for a lot of blockbuster movies from Braveheart to Gandhi, but the English involvement in the Great Famine in Ireland has largely gone unnoticed cinematically, according to the makers of Black 47. An Irish Ranger desserts from British forces and after finding his loved ones deceased and wronged upon his return, goes on a killing spree, working his way up from local henchman to British lord. Not even Hugo Weaving as the good antagonist gone bad and good again, can salvage this very predictable film. While some of the imagery is indeed disturbing and effective in portraying the unfathomable plight of the people, the film does little to transform the viewers disgust into a more meaningful emotion.

  'Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot' directed by Gus Van Sant    A Berlinale darling, Gus Van Sant delivers an autobiographical film about John Callahan, a dark humored quadriplegic turned cartoonist. Much like the main character played by Joaquín Phoenix, the film rolls along the lines of humor, disgust, fright and amazement. Phoenix delivers a heartfelt and believable performance without guilting audiences too much for a man that has brought a lot of his misery on himself. After an intoxicated night out with fellow alcoholic Dexter played by Jack Black, John ends up paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Having to finally face his demons, John finds a way back into a meaningful life with the help of a few friends, most notably guru-like Donnie played by Jonah Hill. Van Sant finds a good balance between dramatic and comedic moments and creates a thoroughly entertaining film that matches well with the twisted humor of Callahan.

'Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot' directed by Gus Van Sant

A Berlinale darling, Gus Van Sant delivers an autobiographical film about John Callahan, a dark humored quadriplegic turned cartoonist. Much like the main character played by Joaquín Phoenix, the film rolls along the lines of humor, disgust, fright and amazement. Phoenix delivers a heartfelt and believable performance without guilting audiences too much for a man that has brought a lot of his misery on himself. After an intoxicated night out with fellow alcoholic Dexter played by Jack Black, John ends up paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Having to finally face his demons, John finds a way back into a meaningful life with the help of a few friends, most notably guru-like Donnie played by Jonah Hill. Van Sant finds a good balance between dramatic and comedic moments and creates a thoroughly entertaining film that matches well with the twisted humor of Callahan.

  'Unsane' directed by Steven Soderbergh    This film may be something of an experiment, considering it was shot exclusively on an iPhone 7 Plus. Purist may shudder but the good news for independent filmmakers is: you can make a stylish film with just that! Looking past the gear, the film has an interesting premise — SPOILER ALERT — of a woman accidently checking into a closed mental facility and than more or less legally being held there against her will, as part of an insurance scam. Claire Foy turns in a feisty performance as the female lead, yet it seems that the film can’t decide whether it should take a turn for a John Grisham-esque type of suspense or just plain shock survival flick. For the former, it lacks a feasible antagonist with depth and it’s also at times visually violent. Yet for all the blood spilled, it’s still far far away from the likes of Saw. Nevertheless, a good pick for anyone that likes a suspenseful thriller that doesn’t simply celebrate brute violence.

'Unsane' directed by Steven Soderbergh

This film may be something of an experiment, considering it was shot exclusively on an iPhone 7 Plus. Purist may shudder but the good news for independent filmmakers is: you can make a stylish film with just that! Looking past the gear, the film has an interesting premise — SPOILER ALERT — of a woman accidently checking into a closed mental facility and than more or less legally being held there against her will, as part of an insurance scam. Claire Foy turns in a feisty performance as the female lead, yet it seems that the film can’t decide whether it should take a turn for a John Grisham-esque type of suspense or just plain shock survival flick. For the former, it lacks a feasible antagonist with depth and it’s also at times visually violent. Yet for all the blood spilled, it’s still far far away from the likes of Saw. Nevertheless, a good pick for anyone that likes a suspenseful thriller that doesn’t simply celebrate brute violence.

  'Khook' (Pig) directed Mani Haghighi    If you have a chance you should see this film, based alone on offering a glimpse into a country that has been ostracized like few others, yet people barely know about it. But if you’re expecting one of those heavy, food-for-thought, pressing international dramas, you will be in for a surprise. The leading man, Hassan Majooni, constantly wears metal and rock icon t-shirts, smokes like a chimney, destroys tennis rackets with a passion and is in a constant state of crisis. He’s been blacklisted by the government, his muse wants to work with his enemy, and a killer is decapitating everyone in the Iranian film establishment — everyone except  for him, the most relevant director of them all! Khook is a dark comedy that is visually loud and lavish, politically incorrect and often reminds viewers of Tarantino’s/Rodriguez’ escapades. The film boldly deviates from what you typically see in the Iran news and media, and for that, we highly recommend a viewing.

'Khook' (Pig) directed Mani Haghighi

If you have a chance you should see this film, based alone on offering a glimpse into a country that has been ostracized like few others, yet people barely know about it. But if you’re expecting one of those heavy, food-for-thought, pressing international dramas, you will be in for a surprise. The leading man, Hassan Majooni, constantly wears metal and rock icon t-shirts, smokes like a chimney, destroys tennis rackets with a passion and is in a constant state of crisis. He’s been blacklisted by the government, his muse wants to work with his enemy, and a killer is decapitating everyone in the Iranian film establishment — everyone except  for him, the most relevant director of them all! Khook is a dark comedy that is visually loud and lavish, politically incorrect and often reminds viewers of Tarantino’s/Rodriguez’ escapades. The film boldly deviates from what you typically see in the Iran news and media, and for that, we highly recommend a viewing.

  'Las Herederas' (The Heiresses) directed by Marcelo Martinessi    Las Herederas is a true gem of independent filmmaking. The story overflows with strong women, each represented in their very own particular way. It centers around an aged lesbian couple (Chiquita and Chela), both from wealthy families that have to start selling off their belongings when funds become scarce. But while not even a stint in prison can quench the outgoing Chiquita’s lust for life, the introvert Chela struggles mightily with their dilemma. Slowly, she starts to accept the challenge of being temporarily on her own and after meeting the young and vibrant Angy, she outright embraces her new situation. The film strikes a pleasant and gentle tone and builds suspense from Chela rediscovering life with all its ups and downs - no artificial plot twists needed. Las Herederas is a beautifully intimate film that goes for the subtle high instead of the dramatic bang and it’s masterfully carried by an extraordinary performance  from Ana Brun, which deservedly won her Best Actress at the Berlinale.

'Las Herederas' (The Heiresses) directed by Marcelo Martinessi

Las Herederas is a true gem of independent filmmaking. The story overflows with strong women, each represented in their very own particular way. It centers around an aged lesbian couple (Chiquita and Chela), both from wealthy families that have to start selling off their belongings when funds become scarce. But while not even a stint in prison can quench the outgoing Chiquita’s lust for life, the introvert Chela struggles mightily with their dilemma. Slowly, she starts to accept the challenge of being temporarily on her own and after meeting the young and vibrant Angy, she outright embraces her new situation. The film strikes a pleasant and gentle tone and builds suspense from Chela rediscovering life with all its ups and downs - no artificial plot twists needed. Las Herederas is a beautifully intimate film that goes for the subtle high instead of the dramatic bang and it’s masterfully carried by an extraordinary performance  from Ana Brun, which deservedly won her Best Actress at the Berlinale.

  'Twarz' (Mug) directed by Malgorzata Szumowska    Twarz is a merciless tally of the Polish status quo. Jacek is a construction worker, lives with his family on a farm and gets ridiculed by his brothers for being a long-haired Metallica fan. But he embraces the rebel role and even gets the pretty girl. However, when he has a severe accident that requires a face transplant his disfigured appearance pushes him outside what’s socially acceptable. Now an outsider not by choice but by physical manifestation, he’s rejected by his love, his family, his church community and even a pastor that’s more interested in sexual confessions than Jacek’s costly rehabilitation. Malgorzata blatantly tears apart everything sacred in Poland and uses the camera to paint an ugly picture of her country; one engrained with racism, alcoholism, sexism and religious furor. The film will probably not win many popularity contests in Poland but it did win the Jury Grand Prix at the Berlinale.

'Twarz' (Mug) directed by Malgorzata Szumowska

Twarz is a merciless tally of the Polish status quo. Jacek is a construction worker, lives with his family on a farm and gets ridiculed by his brothers for being a long-haired Metallica fan. But he embraces the rebel role and even gets the pretty girl. However, when he has a severe accident that requires a face transplant his disfigured appearance pushes him outside what’s socially acceptable. Now an outsider not by choice but by physical manifestation, he’s rejected by his love, his family, his church community and even a pastor that’s more interested in sexual confessions than Jacek’s costly rehabilitation. Malgorzata blatantly tears apart everything sacred in Poland and uses the camera to paint an ugly picture of her country; one engrained with racism, alcoholism, sexism and religious furor. The film will probably not win many popularity contests in Poland but it did win the Jury Grand Prix at the Berlinale.

kweighbaye Kotee