Berlinale 2009 – Forum Lineup (The Ultimate List)

Background for the 2009 Forum (Internationales Forum des Jungen Films), the Berlin Film Festival showcase for independent cinema. Eleven films are debuts, 25 are world premieres, and 12 are international premieres.

My practice is to share my notes as I build an article. Watch for original essays beginning 5 February.

Araya (Margot Benacerraf, Venezuela/France) (WP of the restored print – special screening)
From IMDb: "’Araya’ is an old natural salt mine located in a peninsula in northeastern Venezuela which was still, by 1959, being exploited manually five hundred years after its discovery by the Spanish. Margot Benacerraf captures in images, the life of the "salineros" and their archaic methods of work before their definite disappearance with the arrival of the industrial exploitation. "

Hashmatsa / Defamation (Yoav Shamir, Denmark, Austria, Israel, US) (WP)
From the press release: "Shamir’s research surrounding the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) put him on the trail of quite a different phenomenon—the delicate matter of confronting the aura of the perpetual victim."

Letters to the President (Petr Lom, Canada/Iran) (WP)
From the press release: "…The subject is the letters that millions of Iranians, encouraged by state propaganda, write to their president."

Material (Thomas Heise, Germany) (WP, special screening)
From Kulturstiftung des Bundes: "Thomas Heise was born in East Berlin in 1955 and grew up in the former GDR. His experiences under the communist regime strongly influenced his view of German history, which will be the theme of an installation titled Material. In a montage of photos and audio materials, collected over the past thirty years, Heise creates an installation that portrays a uniquely personal, historic panorama that starkly contrasts official versions of recent German history…."

Ne me libérez pas, je m’en charge / My Greatest Escape (Fabienne Godet, France) (WP)

Rachel (Simone Bitton, France/Belgium) (WP)
From the press release: "Takes up the case of American peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed in 2003 while trying to prevent the destruction of houses in the Gaza Strip."

Sweetgrass (Lucien Castaing-Taylor, USA) (WP)
From Harvard VES: "a long-form work depicting the annual transhumance of a band of sheep and their herders with the last grazing permit in the Absaroka-Beartooth mountains."

Die wundersame Welt der Waschkraft / The Wondrous World of Laundry (Die wundersame Welt der Waschkraft / The Wondrous World of Laundry">Hans-Christian Schmid, Germany) (WP, special screening)

Zum Vergleich / By Comparison (Harun Farocki, Germany/Austria) (WP)

D’Arusha à Arusha / From Arusha to Arusha (Christophe Gargot, France/Canada/Ruanda) (IP)
From the press release: "Documentary concerned with the longterm effects of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in which close to a million people were killed. His fascinating and illuminating film contrasts the prosecution of the crimes by the international tribunal in Arusha with the struggle to cope with the trauma on an individual and interpersonal level."

L’encerclement / Encirclement: Neo-Liberalism Ensnares Democracy (Richard Brouillette, Canada) (IP)
From the film website: "Drawing upon the thinking and analyses of renowned intellectuals, this documentary sketches a portrait of neo-liberal ideology and examines the various mechanisms used to impose its dictates throughout the world."

H:r Landshövding / Mr Governor (Måns Månsson, Sweden) (IP)
With Anders Björck.
From "Over a year, we follow the former Swedish Minister of Defense, Anders Björck, in his work as governor of Uppsala County. The official position is almost 400 years old, and the job consists of sitting at a big desk, having lunch meetings with other governors, cutting ribbons at opening ceremonies, holding speeches and eating dinner with the King and Queen of Sweden. It is hard work, but someone has to do it. Björck gives the viewer full access, making this personal portrait both humorous and very, very serious."

Filmmakers Against Racism (special screening)
Affectionately Known as Alex (Danny Turken, South Africa) (EP)
Angels on our Shoulders (Andy Spitz, South Africa) (EP)
Baraka / The Blessing (Omelga Mthiyane, Riaan Hendricks, Marianne Gysae, South Africa) (EP)
The Burning Man (Adze Ugah, South Africa) (EP)

Ma dai fu de zhen suo / Doctor Ma’s Country Clinic (Cong Feng, People’s Republic of China) (EP)
From "In this narrow and small clinic, when people wait for seeing doctor or making up prescription, they usually chat with each others about their lives, local conditions, or the experience of people they know."

Polamuang Juling / Citizen Juling (Kraisak Choonhavan, Manit Sriwanichpoom, Ing K, Thailand) (EP)
From the press release: "After a fanatical mob brutally attacked two school teachers in the spring of 2006, filmmaker Ing K and politician and human rights activist Kraisak Choonhavan set out on a journey across Thailand, a country divided by violence and prejudice."

Seishin / Mental (Soda Kazuhiro, Japan) (EP)
From Japan Today: "A chronicle of lives focusing on a small outpatient mental clinic in Okayama City, the 135-minute film makes the viewer feel as if he or she is making a personal visit to the clinic, questioning what it means to be ‘‘sane’’ and ‘‘insane’’ along the way."
From IMDb: "MENTAL is a feature-length documentary that observes the complex world of an outpatient mental health clinic in Japan, interwoven with patients, doctors, staff, volunteers, and home-helpers, in cinema-verite style. The film breaks a major taboo against discussing mental illness prevalent in Japanese society, and captures the candid lives of people coping with suicidal tendencies, poverty, a sense of shame, apprehension, and fear of society.  Written by Kazuhiro Soda."

Semaan Bilda’ia / The One Man Village (Simon El Habre, Lebanon) (EP)
From the press release: "A portrait of his uncle Semaan, the sole inhabitant of a mountain village turned into a ghost town by the Lebanese civil war. Despite its sadness, this wonderfully photographed film is also a story about the joy of a life lived in peace."

Soul Power (Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, USA) (EP, special screening)

When it was Blue (Jennifer Reeves, USA/Iceland) (EP, special screening)

Aguas Verdes / Green Waters (Mariano De Rosa, Argentina) (WP)
With Alejandro Fiore, Milagros Gallo, Maximiliano Gigli, Julieta Mora, Efrat Wolns, Jorgelina Amedolara, Diego Cremonesi
From IMDb: "Juan is a family man; he feels at ease with his life and his work, and with his wife and two children. Everything seems to indicate that the summer holidays in Aguas Verdes are going to be a pleasant time. An unexpected element, however, triggers Juan’s mental imbalance."

Beeswax (Andrew Bujalski, US) (WP)
With Tilly Hatcher, Maggie Hatcher, Alex Karpovsky, Katy O’Connor, David Zellner, Kyle Henry, Anne Dodge, Betty Blackwell, and others.
From the press release: "Using the gestures, manner of speaking, and props of everyday life, Bujalski discovers small dramatic episodes of an astonishing cinematographic quality. His laconicism and intimacy can be considered the marks of a trend; a special genre term has, in fact, already been coined to reflect the way the actors, mostly non-professionals, speak in his films: ‘mumblecore’. This term can also be seen as an indication that the mumbling of everyday life all too often transmits the clearest signs of life."

Cea mai fericită fată din lume / The Happiest Girl in the World (Radu Jude, Romania/The Netherlands) (WP)
With Andi Vasluianu, Serban Pavlu, Luminita Stoianovici, Vasile Muraru, Diana Gheorghian, Alexandru Georgescu, Bogdan Marhodin, Doru Catanescu, and others.
From the press release: "Tells the story of Delia, a teenager who feels like she’s entered another world after winning a car. When she is expected to play the ‘happiest girl in the world’ in a TV advertisement in return, the shoot quickly becomes a crash course on growing up in this painfully telling film, a comment as relentless as it is comic on the situation in post-Communist Romania."

Un chat un chat / Pardon my French (Sophie Fillières, France) (WP)
With Chiara Mastroianni, Sophie Guillemin, Malik Zidi, Agathe Bonitzer, Dominique Valadié, Christine Honrado.

Eoddeon gaien nal / The Day After (Lee Suk-Gyung, Republic of Korea) (WP)

The Exploding Girl (Bradley Rust Gray, US) (WP)
With Mark Rendall, Zoe Kazan, Maryann Urbano, and Hunter Canning.     
From the press release: "During their summer vacation, Ivy and Al discover that a shift from “best friends” to lovers may be on the cards. It is, however, precisely their familiarity that now represents a barrier between them."

Generasi biru / The Blue Generation (Garin Nugroho, John De Rantau, Dosy Omar, Indonesia) (WP, special screening)

A History of Israeli Cinema (Raphaël Nadjari, France/Israel) (WP, special screening)

Die koreanische Hochzeitstruhe / The Korean Wedding Chest (Ulrike Ottinger, Germany) (WP)
With Kim KeumHwa, Boseong, Kim Minja, Ahn Baekseung, Yun Minkyung, Yoo Heejong, Lee Hyaekyoung, Yang Gilseung, and others.
From "When I opened a Korean email in fall 2007 I didn’t imagine that I would soon be opening a well-stocked miracle box, the inspiring contents of which would become a film: THE KOREAN WEDDING CHEST. Even though (or especially because) this carefully packed, filled, and tied-up wooden chest was assembled according to the rules of an honored tradition, it offers a remarkable insight into and overview of modern Korean society. I was inspired to look more closely at the old and new rituals to determine what is old in the new and new in the old. A modern fairytale about the amazing phenomenon of new mega cities emerging everywhere and their contradictory societies caught in the balancing act. Bon voyage into the present!"

Man tänker sitt / Burrowing (Fredrik Wenzel, Henrik Hellström, Sweden) (WP)
With Sebastian Eklund, Jörgen Svensson, Hannes Sandahl, Marek Kosterzewski, Bodil Wessberg, Silas Franceen.
From Swedish Film Institute: "Sebastian lives at home with his mother. He is eleven years old. From an elevated spot in the playground, he surveys his neighbourhood."

Marin Blue (Matthew Hysell, US) (WP)
With Cory Knauf, Najarra Townsend, Elliott Ehlers, Josh Cobb, Trista Robinson, Tanya F. Yarbrough, Sean Guse, Kate Melia and others.
From the press release: "In the perplexing void of Los Angeles ’s suburban architecture, the ruins of real estate speculation, they seek out temporary housing, and wait for their memories to return."
From the film website: "Marin and Jim are two outsiders, drawn together by a shared history unknown even to them. Marin spends her days at a youth mental facility singing over a loudspeaker to patients. Jim, recently committed, only knows her through her voice."

Mitte Ende August / Sometime in August (Sebastian Schipper, Germany) (WP)
With Marie Bäumer, Anna Brüggemann, André Hennicke, Milan Peschel

La sirena y el buzo / The Mermaid and the Diver (Mercedes Moncada Rodríguez, Mexico/Nicaragua/Spain) (WP)

Sumashedshaya pomosh / Help Gone Mad (Boris Khlebnikov, Russia) (WP)
From Russia Info-Centre: "…Adventures of a Byelorussian migrant worker Mad Help (Sumashedshaya Pomosh)…. The main character Yevgeny (Evgenii Sytyi), a lazy, jovial and kind-hearted chap from a Byelorussian village comes to Moscow in search of a living. A criminal incident suddenly separates him from his fellows; he is left alone without money and documents. Yet, a generous Muscovite, a former engineer (Sergei Dreiden) gives him shelter. Together they plunge into adventures and struggle with the district militia officer (Aleksandr Yatsenko) for what they think to be a righteous cause."

Wu Sheng Feng Ling / Soundless Wind Chime (Kit Hung, Hong Kong/Switzerland) (WP)
From IMDb: ”Ricky leaves Hong Kong for Switzerland to look for the lost soul and the past of his deceased Swiss lover, Pascal. Ricky struggles with the confusion of memories, reality and illusion."

Yanaka boshoku / Deep in the Valley  (Funahashi Atsushi, Japan) (WP)

Ai no mukidashi / Love Exposure (Sono Sion, Japan) (IP)
With Takahiro Nishijima, Hikari Mitsushima, Makiko Watanabe, Atsuro Watabe, Sakura Ando, Yûko Genkaku, Itsuji Itao, Mitsuru Kuramoto, and others.
From Quiet Earth: "This looks like what Woody Allen would do if he were Japanese: some perversion, religious symbolism, and a sprinkling of martial arts. ‘Forced to confess his sins by his priest father, Yu devotes himself to wrongdoing and becomes a legend of sneak photography. Then he meets Yoko, and becomes involved with a mysterious religious cult… NISHIJIMA Takahiro, MITSUSHIMA Hikari and ANDO Sakura make a splendid ensemble in this epic love story.’"

Calimucho (Eugenie Jansen, The Netherlands) (IP)
With Evelyne Bougliogne, Tarek Hannoudi, Joshy Huppertz, Manfred Huppertz, Ralf Huppertz, Freddy Kenton, Dicky Kilian, Ana Muntean, and others.
From the press release: "For an entire season the director traveled with a circus through the small towns of the Dutch countryside, going on to stage a fictional story in which all the characters more or less play themselves in an atmosphere reminiscent of a fairy tale."
From IMDb: "Dicky bears the full weight of the small, financially unstable family circus on her shoulders."
From "A circus artiste tries to juggle love, desire and her dead sister’s job in Dutch verite-fiction hybrid ‘Calimucho’."

Ching yan / The Beast Stalker (Dante Lam, Hong Kong) (IP, special screening)
With Nicholas Tse, Jingchu Zhang, Nick Cheung, Kai Chi Liu, Sherman Chung, Philip Keung, Esther Kwan, Jing-hung Kwok and others.

Hayat var / My Only Sunshine (Reha Erdem, Turkey/Greece/Bulgaria) (IP)
With Elit Ä°ÅŸcan, Erdal BeÅŸikçioÄŸlu, Levend Yılmaz
From 45th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival: "Hayat (14), her father and bedridden grandfather live in a riverside shack near the dangerously dark but breathtakingly beautiful waters of the Bosphorus. Hayat’s father owns a small boat that secures the family’s survival trough a miscellany of not always lawful ventures. Beyond the motion and romance of the water, Hayat’s life is harsh and unrelenting. But Hayat has an instinct for survival. Her capacity for courage, endurance and hope in the face of these trials suggest that there is Life despite the manifold injustice of an unjust world."

Heosuabideuleui ddang / Land of Scarecrows (Roh Gyeong-Tae, Republic of Korea/France) (IP)
With Kim Sun-young, Phuong Thi Bich, Jung Du-won, and Shin An-jin.
From VarietyAsiaOnline: "…three misfits living on the very outer fringes of society."

Jang-rae-sig-ui member / Members of the Funeral (Baek Seung-bin, Republic of Korea) (IP)
With Yoo Ha Bok, Park Myung-shin, Kim Byul, and Lee Ju-seung.
From VarietyAsiaOnline: "A dysfunctional family’s heart of darkness is laid bare in the grimly humorous and then just plain grim meller ‘Members of the Funeral’. Feature bow by Baek Seung-bin heralds a dark wit and sleek intelligence guided by a creatively secure humility."

Kan door huid heen / Can Go Through Skin (Esther Rots, The Netherlands) (IP)
With Rifka Lodeizen, Wim Opbrouck, and Chris Borowski.
From IMDb: "The silent aftermath of a young woman’s disaster is broken by her discovery of nature’s old rhythms."

멋진 하루 / Meotjin haru / My Dear Enemy (Lee Yoon-Ki, Republic of Korea) (IP)
With Do-yeon Jeon, Jung-woo Ha, Il-hwa Choi, Ju-bong Gi    , Hyo-ju Han    , So-yeon Jang, Si-nae Jo, Hye-ok Kim, and others.
From KMDb: "Jobless and single in her thirties, Hee-soo is miserable. On one fine day, she sets out to find Byoung-woon, her ex-boyfriend. It is not love that brings them together but $1,000 Hee-soo had lent to Byoung-woon a year ago. Byoung-woon is also penniless but surprisingly happy for he knows the girls who are willing to give him money. Afraid Byoung-woon may run off before clearing his debt, Hee-soo follows him as he visits many girls to borrow money, so the two ex-love birds set out on a one day journey to collect money, and memory."

Winterstilte / Winter Silence (Sonja Wyss, The Netherlands/Switzerland) (IP)
With Gerda Zangger, Sandra Utzinger, Brigitta Weber, Katalin Liptak, and Sarah Bühlmann.
From the press release: "An archaic story of sexual awakening and religious mysticism in the director’s Swiss homeland."
From the film website: "In a snowed-in log cabin, a widow lives with her four grown-up daughters, all with their own desires for love and intimacy. The strong Catholic faith and their mourning that has tormented them for years has condemned them to a life of chastity. Mysterious deer-men change their existence."

Mubōbi / Naked of Defenses(Ichii Masahide, Japan) (EP)
From Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow: "A woman working in a factory in rural Japan who grows jealous of her pregnant co-worker."

Treeless Mountain (So Yong Kim, USA/Republic of Korea) (EP)
With Hee-yeon Kim, Mi-hyang Kim, Song-hee Kim, and Soo-ah Lee.        
From the press release: "The story of two sisters who, at a very early age, are confronted with a world that they do not understand and in which they are not welcome."
From "Two resilient little sisters bear up as best they can when their desperate mom dumps them with relatives."

Langsamer Sommer / Slow Summer (John Cook, Austria) (special screening)

Schwitzkasten / Clinch (John Cook, Austria) (special screening)

For more information, visit the Forum website.
Posts for peace, sound environmental stewardship, humane economic policy and promotion of human health and creativity. About the blogger.