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Berlin Film Festival reveals eclectic 2024 competition line-up: Here's everything you need to know

Berlin film festival reveals 2024 competition line-up
Berlin film festival reveals 2024 competition line-up Copyright Berlin Film Festival
Copyright Berlin Film Festival
By David Mouriquand
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The 74th Berlin Film Festival runs from 15-25 February, and the freshly announced Competition line-up looks like cinephiles will be treated to a very strong edition.

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The Berlin International Film Festival has revealed the 20 titles selected for its official Competition.

It’s a promising selection of films with several star-driven projects and some arthouse favourites. We don’t envy this year’s jury, led by Lupita Nyong’o, but we can’t wait to feast our eyes on what has got to be the most eclectic Berlinale line-up in recent years.

Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming films vying for 2024’s Golden Bear. (Scroll down for full list of Competition titles.)

Early standouts

Cilian Murphy in Small Things Like These
Cilian Murphy in Small Things Like TheseBerlin Film Festival

New films from Olivier Assayas, Bruno Dumont, Mati Diop are among those selected for the Competition line-up, with stars including Rooney Mara (La Cocina), Gael García Bernal and Renate Reinsve (Another End), Sebastian Stan (A Different Man – also starring Reinsve), Isabelle Hupert (A Traveler’s Needs) and Cillian Murphy, whose new film, Small Things Like These, will open this year’s Berlinale.

Small Things Like These is directed by Peaky Blinders’ Tim Mielants, and is based on the 2021 book by Irish author, Claire Keegan.

Set in 1980s Ireland, it sees the Oppenheimer star play a devoted father who discovers unsettling truths about the Magdalene Laundries, the horrific asylums run by Roman Catholic institutions said to house “fallen women”. The cast includes Ciaran Hinds and Emily Watson. 

The Berlinale's Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian said: “We are confident that this story that allies the kindness to be directed to the more fragile, and the willpower to stand up against injustice, will resonate with everyone.”

He continued: “We are looking forward to launching this quiet yet quite exceptional film at the start of Zeitgeist Irland 24, a year-long celebration of Irish culture in Germany."

Gael Garcia Bernal in Another End
Gael Garcia Bernal in Another EndBerlin Film Festival

Several films in the line-up already stand out as particularly alluring, such as Mexican director Alonso Ruizpalacious’ (A Cop Movie) new film La Cocina. Billed as a love story set in the kitchen of a Manhattan restaurant, it sees Rooni Mara playing an American waitress named Julia who becomes romantically entangled with the prime suspect of an in-house theft, an undocumented Mexican cook named Pedro (Raúl Briones).

Elsewhere, Another End by Italian director Piero Messina (The Wait) stars García Bernal as a man whose wife dies, and Renate Reinsve as the woman who rents out her body - in which the memory and consciousness of his former wife are temporarily implanted – and becomes his partner. As you do.

Reinsve, who wowed audiences in The Worst Person in the World, also stars alongside Sebastian Stan (Logan Lucky, I, Tonya, the MCU’s Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier) in A Different Man, which follows an actor who has facial reconstruction surgery and who must come to terms with the fact that a theatre role based on his life is given to another actor. The film had its world premiere in Sundance earlier this month, and audiences were reportedly impressed by the film's performances, use of body horror, and one kinky sex scene that had viewers squirming in their seats.

Sounds very promising.

A varied selection

Gloria!
Gloria!Berlin Film Festival

There’s a variety of genres in the Competition strand, which makes this edition particularly alluring.

To mention only a few:

There’s a musical comedy - Gloria! by Margherita Vicario, set in an 18th century Venetian female boarding school where a group of performers challenge classical canons.

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The absurdist sci-fi madness The Empire by Bruno Dumont (Slack Bay, Jeannette) looks bonkers – check out the trailer below.

A historical drama, with Andreas Dresen’s From Hilde With Love, a Nazi-era drama which sees Babylon Berlin’s Liv Lisa Fries star a young woman who falls in love with an anti-Nazi resistance fighter

A horror offering, with The Devil’s Bath, the new film from Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, whose sophomore film Ich seh, Ich seh (Goodnight Mommy) saw the duo deliver one of the most memorable and surprising horror movies of the past decade.

Isabelle Hupert in A Traveler's Needs
Isabelle Hupert in A Traveler's NeedsBerlin Film Festival

And, predictably, it wouldn’t be a Berlinale without yet another Hong Sangsoo film (A Traveler’s Needs). The prolific South Korean director has won awards three years in a row - his 2020 film The Woman Who Ran won the Silver Bear for Best Director; 2021’s Introduction nabbed the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay; and 2022’s The Novelist's Film took home the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize – and this increasingly tiresome inclusion in the Competition selection might end up culminating in Hong Sangsoo finally winning the Golden Bear. They've been building up to it, clearly. 

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Berlinale taking a stand

My Favourite Cake
My Favourite CakeBerlin Film Festival

One of the title of note in Competition this year is My Favourite Cake by Iranian directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha.

Both have been banned from travel by Iranian authorities and face a trial in relation to My Favourite Cake.

In December 2023, local media reported that Iranian security forces had raided the house of the film’s editor, seizing rushes and materials related to the production.

The country’s hard-line Islamist authorities are believed to have been angered by the film, which according to the official logline revolves around the “life behind closed doors of an aging woman who dares to live her desires in a country where women’s rights are heavily restricted”.

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Moghaddam and Sanaeeha’s last collaboration, the stunning and emotionally devastating Ballad Of A White Cow, premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2021. Their film told the story of a woman who discovers her executed husband was innocent of the charges against him.

They were subsequently sued by the Revolutionary Guards for Ballad Of A White Cow, and charged with “propaganda against the regime and acting against national security”. They were later acquitted but the film remains banned in Iran, a country which ranked second on the PEN America 2022 Freedom to Write Index list of the top 10 jailers of writers globally.

Filmmakers and movie festival organizers from around the world have been vocal in demanding that Iranian authorities to drop all charges against the two filmmakers and lift their travel ban. 

The fact that the Berlinale has chosen this film in Competition sends a strong message, as the festival is known for its political leanings and giving a platform to voices facing political oppression.

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France under the spotlight

Suspended Time
Suspended TimeBerlin Film Festival

This year’s Berlinale Competition boasts several French productions, showcasing the richness of the country’s output.

Beyond the aforementioned The Empire is Olivier Assayas’s pandemic-themed film Suspended Time, about two couples spending lockdown together. Starring Vincent Macaigne and Nora Hamzawi, it’s one of our most anticipated titles of the 20-strong selection.

There’s also France-based African auteur Abderrahmane Sissako’s romance drama Black Tea, which is the director’s follow up to his 2015 Oscar-nominated Timbuktu. His new film tells the story of a woman who leaves the Ivory Coast to start a new life in Guangzhou, China.

No Competition parity

The Devil’s Bath by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala
The Devil’s Bath by Veronika Franz and Severin FialaBerlin Film Festival

Out of the 20 films in Competition, only six are directed by women – with two of those titles (My Favourite Cake and The Devil’s Bath) co-directed by men.

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This does not see the festival improve on last year’s selection, which also had six films directed by women, and once again, the aim of a 50/50 split between male and female directors in the Competition line-up has not come to fruition. However, the Berlinale remains head and shoulders above many of its European A-list festival counterparts in this respect, namely Cannes and Venice.

Starry specials

Outside of Competition, there’ll be plenty of A-listers in Berlin this year, courtesy of the Berlinale Special strand.

Kristen Stewart - who presided over last year’s Berlin jury – is back with queer crime thriller Love Lies Bleeding from director Rose Glass, whose debut Saint Maud made our Top European Films of the 21st Century. The thriller centres on a reclusive gym employee who falls hard for a bisexual bodybuilder. Their love ignites violence and pulls them deep into a web of criminality - with Ed Harris posing something of a threat. It was one of our most anticipated titles of 2024, and considering Saint Maud was a nerve-jangling and sophisticated psychodrama, there’s every reason to get very excited about Love Lies Bleeding.

German filmmaker Julia von Heinz’s new film Treasure, starring Lena Dunham and Stephen Fry will screen, as well as Tilman Singer’s horror movie Cuckoo, which gives top billing to Euphoria star Hunter Schafer.

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Amanda Seyfried will make the trip to present Atom Egoyan’s Seven Veils, which premiered in Toronto, and Nathan Zellner’s Sasquatch Sunset starring Riley Keough and Jesse Eisenberg, which premiered at Sundance, also made the Berlinale cut.

Then there’s Netflix’s output. Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan and Paul Dano are expected on the red carpet this year for the world premiere of Spaceman, in which Sandler plays an astronaut sent to the edge of the solar system to collect mysterious ancient dust.

There’s also the Netflix series Supersex that looks at the life of Italy’s global porn star Rocco Siffredi with a feminist slant. Sign us up.

Enabling peaceful dialogue

Berlinale managing director Mariette Rissenbeek and artistic director Carlo Chatrian
Berlinale managing director Mariette Rissenbeek and artistic director Carlo ChatrianMarkus Schreiber/AP

This year’s Berlinale will be the last edition headed by the departing Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek. Tricia Tuttle, former festival director of the BFI London Film Festival (LFF), will take charge starting with the 2025 edition.

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Before announcing the Competition program, Rissenbeek and Chatrain started the press conference with a statement positioning the festival on the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

“Festivals provide a space for artistic expression and enable peaceful dialogue. They are places of encounter and exchange and contribute to international understanding. We believe that through the power of films and open discussions, we can help foster empathy, awareness, understanding, even and especially in painful times like these,” Chatrian said.

“Our sympathy goes out to all the victims of the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and elsewhere,” he added. “We want everyone’s suffering to be recognised, and for our programme to be open to discussing different perspectives on the complexity of the world.”

“We are also concerned to see that anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim resentment and hate speech are spreading in Germany and around the world. As a cultural institution, we take a firm stand against all forms of discrimination and are committed to intercultural understanding.”

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Rissenbeek said several initiatives are being planned aimed at fostering open dialogue about the Middle East crisis during the festival.

The 74th Berlin Film Festival runs from 15-25 February.

Here is the Berlinale 2024 Competition line-up:

  • “Small Things Like These” by Tim Mielants
  • “Another End” by Piero Messina
  • “Architecton” by Victor Kossakovsky
  • “Black Tea” by Abderrahmane Sissako
  • “La Cocina” by Alonso Ruizpalacios
  • “Dahomey” by Mati Diop
  • “A Different Man” by Aaron Schimberg
  • “L’Empire (The Empire)” by Bruno Dumont
  • “Gloria!” by Margherita Vicario
  • “Hors du temps (Suspended Time)” by Olivier Assayas
  • “In Liebe, Eure Hilde (From Hilde, With Love)” by Andreas Dresen
  • “Keyke mahboobe man (My Favourite Cake)” by Behtash Sanaeeha and Maryam Moghaddam
  • “Langue Etrangere” by Claire Burger
  • “Me el Ain (Who Do I Belong to)” by Meryam Joobeur
  • “Pepe” by Nelson Carlos De Los Santos Arias
  • “Shambhala” by Min Bahadur Bham
  • “Sterben” by Matthias Glasner
  • “Des Teufels Bad (The Devil’s Bath)” by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz
  • “Vogter (Sons)” by Gustav Moller
  • “Yeohaengjaui pilyo (A Traveler’s Needs)” by Hong Sangsoo

Stay tuned to Euronews Culture for our full preview of the 2024 Berlinale.

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