Berlinale 2012 kicks off in three days, and with its vast, diverse international program, preparation is mandatory. So, between stockpiling warm clothes and memorizing how to say "I don't speak German" in German, I've been combing the program and singling out potential highlights in each festival category. I'll be sharing these over the next several days before I depart, at which point I'll stop guessing and start actually seeing movies and posting dispatches.
We'll start with competition films. I've narrowed down the list based on talent attached, plot synopses and occasionally publicity stills and gut-instinct. If anyone notices something I missed, feel free to chime in.
Caesar Must Die
Paolo & Vittorio Taviani's documentary follows the rehearsals and performance of a group of inmates in a Roman maximum security prison Rebibbia putting on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.
The very talented Actor/Musician/Poet Saül Williams stars in this drama about a Senegalese man returning to his native city after living in America for years.
Jayne Mansfield's Car
Billy Bob Thornton directs and acts in this ensemble family drama, which also stars Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon and Robert Patrick. Hey, why not?
The intriguing, potentially disturbing plot for Frédéric Videau's film involves a girl who gains freedom after being kidnapped and living in captivity for eight years.
The trailer was solid, and after Spain's excellent recent output of character-based psychological thrillers (Most recently Sleep Tight), I'm doubly interested.
In Spiros Stathoulopoulos' film, a monk falls in love with a nun in the Orthodox monasteries of Metéora, perched atop sandstone pillars. Surely, complications ensue. Eeven if they don't, I'll be happy just watching the beautiful scenery and monks and nuns who have simpler lives than me.
Farewell, My Queen
Here's an antidote to Marie Antoinette: Benoït Jacquot's new film (And the opening night selection) chronicles the beginning of the French revolution through the eyes of the servants, not the Royalty. These must be the most beautiful servants of all time though; Léa Seydoux, Diane Kruger and Virginie Ledoyen star.
More Léa Seydoux! And class warfare to boot! Ursula Meier's second film tells the story of a poor child who lives below a fancy ski resort in the alps and takes to stealing from the rich tourists who visit. Gillian Anderson also stars.
Based on true events, Brillante Mendoza's film chronicles the kidnapping of twelve tourists, by the Muslim Abu Sayyaf group. As if the situation weren't harrowing enough, they then commence on a prolonged march through the jungles of the Philippines. Isabelle Hupbert stars.
The plot of this effort from Portuguese director Miguel Gomes (The Portoguese Nun) is hard to pin down from the synopsis, but it sounds like a playful, audacious adventure of sorts, and the black and white stills look great. Especially the Crocodile.
Just the Wind
Bence Fliegauf's true crime tale based on a series of eight killings in Hungary that began with the murder of a Romany family seems like it may have potential to thrill and examine a the still-relevant problem of racism against Romanes in Europe.
The competition program also ironically includes several movies that aren't actually in competition for the Golden or Silver Bear. Search me. Notable films in this category include James Marsh's Shadow Dancer, Tsui Hark's Flying Swords of Dragon Gate and Bel Ami, which stars Robert Pattinson and Uma Thurman.
Check back for more on Berlinale 2012 soon!