Berlinale 2016



February 11th – 21st, 2016
Berlin, Germany

by Joanna Orland

In its 66th year, the Berlin International Film Festival continued its tradition of showcasing a diverse collection of films from around the world.  This year’s film festival jury was presided over by acting legend Meryl Streep who led a panel including Clive Owen and Alba Rohrwacher amongst its talent.  The jury could be seen at various screenings across the festival as they were to decide which of the films were to be awarded the Berlinale 2016 top prizes, including The Golden Bear.

Highlights from this year’s festival included the Golden Bear winner Fuocoamare (Fire at Sea), an Italian documentary focusing on the plight of the refugees in the midst of everyday Italian life.  Other highlights included the low key South African courtroom drama Shepherds and Butchers which placed third in the audience Panorama award, Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson giving sensational performances in Alone in Berlin, Alex Gibney’s new documentary Zero Days, and an array of television debuts including Susanne Bier’s big budget epic The Night Manager.  My personal favourites of the festival were Ben Schnetzer in Goat, Rebecca Miller’s new comedy Maggie’s Plan and the new Michael Moore documentary Where to Invade Next.

Celebrities and filmmakers were in attendance as press conferences, junkets, red carpets and parties took place to celebrate and promote their work.  The star-studded festival saw the likes of Julianne Moore, Greta Gerwig, Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Ehle, Colin Firth, Jude Law, Laura Linney, Guy Pearce and even Nick Jonas but to name a few.

View our videos from the 66th Berlinale Film Festival.

Our full coverage of the 66th Berlinale Film Festival:

A Dragon Arrives! (Ejhdeha Vared Mishavad!)

Directed by Mani Haghighi
Starring Amir Jadidi, Homayoun Ghanizadeh, Ehsan Goudarzi, Kiana Tajammol, Nader Fallah

The year is 1965.  A political prisoner hangs himself two months before he’s due to be released.  Even though many prisoners kill themselves, it seems suspicious that anyone would do so this close to his release, and what makes it more suspicious is that the Iranian prime minister was shot dead in front of the parliament building the day before. Police inspector Babak Hafizi is sent to investigate and together with a sound engineer and geologist, they discover things out of the ordinary… read more

A Quiet Passion
Directed by Terence Davies
Starring Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle

Director Terence Davies was joined by his leading ladies Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle to promote A Quiet Passion at the 66th Berlinale film festival.  The cast and director were on hand to discuss the story of Emily Dickinson and her sister Lavinia… read more

Alone in Berlin
Directed by Vincent Pérez
Starring Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson and Daniel Brühl

The heart of Alone in Berlin lies in the performances of the film’s two lead actors – Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson.  The film tells the true story of grieve-stricken German couple Anna and Otto Quangel as they mourn the loss of their son who dies on the battlefields of World War II.  To deal with their grief and act against the Nazi regime, the Quangels perform tiny acts of rebellion by leaving notes of “Free Press” which speak against Hitler and his ideals.  These anonymous acts of rebellion are being investigated by Detective Escherich played by Daniel Brühl… read more

An Outpost of Progress (Posto avançado do progresso)
Directed by Hugo Vieira Da Silva
Starring Nuno Lopes and Ivo Alexandre

Two inexperienced Portuguese colonizers arrive in the Congo to take charge of a trading post focusing on the Ivory trade.  They’re not used to the hot climate and the traditions of the local people – their white uniforms really stand out.  In the beginning they seem to enjoy themselves, but the longer time goes on, the more crazy they seem to become from the isolation, heat, diseases and other troubles that they need to deal with. As the characters in the film go more and more crazy, the film also gets more out of hand which really transmits the feeling of the characters’ journey… read more

Barakah Meets Barakah (Barakah yoqabil Barakah)
Directed by Mahmoud Sabbagh
Starring Hisham Fageeh and Fatima AlBanawi

Saudi Arabia would probably be one of the last countries you would expect a romantic comedy from. But Barakah Meets Barakah, which is the first feature film from Saudi Arabia ever to be shown at the Berlinale, is just that… read more

Boris without Béatrice (Boris sans Béatrice)
Directed by Denis Côté
Starring James Hyndman, Simone-Élise Girard, Denis Lavant, Isolda Dychauk, Dounia Sichov and Bruce LaBruce

Boris Malinovsky is an arrogant bourgeois prick.  He goes about life thinking he’s above others, valuing material goods and status symbols over human relations.  His world begins to waver as his wife Béatrice, a minister in the Canadian government, is bedridden suffering from melancholia.  As his wife’s condition worsens, Boris is visited by a mysterious man who claims that the key to Béatrice’s recovery is for Boris to become a better person… read more

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare)
Directed by Gianfranco Rosi

400,000 migrants have reached the shores of Lampedusa in the last two decades and about 20,000 are believed to have died on their journeys.  In the documentary Fuocoammare, you learn distressing facts including that migrants can pay $800 for a lower class ticket in the hold of a boat with not enough space, not enough food and not enough to drink. Many arrive dehydrated and covered in diesel or other chemicals that burn their bodies. There’s one shot in the film where you see the hold filled with dead bodies of people that suffocated on their way. There are many depressing clips that bring you to the verge of tears… read more

Directed by Michael Grandage
Starring Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney, Guy Pearce and Dominic West

With a title rife for mockery, Genius is far from it.  The film sees Colin Firth star as famed book editor Max Perkins who moulded such classic American literaries as F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West).  His latest protege is Thomas Wolfe, played impetuously by Jude Law… read more


Colin Firth, Jude Law, Laura Linney and Guy Pearce were in attendance at this year’s Berlinale film festival to promote their latest film Genius.  The film tells the story of literary editor Max Perkins (Firth) and his complex relationship with author Thomas Wolfe (Law)… read more

Directed by Andrew Neel
Starring Ben Schnetzer, Nick Jonas, Danny Flaherty, Gus Halper and James Franco

Ben Schnetzer is an actor that comes around only once in a generation.  A chameleon in every one of his film roles and an actor that can extract empathy from his audience with seemingly little effort.  He is potentially the greatest actor you’ve never heard of, with the potential to become either an iconic character actor or a huge star.  His performance in Goat suggests he’s striving for the latter… read more


Goat star Nick Jonas was joined by director Andrew Neel and producer Christine Vachon at the 66th Berlinale to promote the film’s screening in the Panorama section of the film festival. Goat is a violent depiction of the hazing rituals that take place in American fraternities.  The film also examines the idea of brotherhood on various levels, blood or otherwise… read more

Hail, Caesar!
Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Channing Tatum

The international premiere of Hail, Caesar! was a great film choice to open Berlinale 2016. The Coen brothers once again have succeeded in creating a funny, quirky movie with lots of different personalities in their exaggerated forms… read more

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Starring John Cameron Mitchell, Miriam Shor, Stephen Trask and Andrea Martin

Berlinale is the only A-list festival to present an official LGBTIQ film prize, and 2016 marks the 30th year of the Teddy Award.  The prize has been awarded in categories including Short Film, Documentary and Feature to works from all of the Berlinale sections which are relevant to queer culture.  For 2016, the Teddy has put together an anniversary programme which includes the 2001 winner of the Best Feature Film Teddy – Hedwig and the Angry Inchread more

Directed by James Schamus
Starring Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon

Longtime film producer James Schamus has turned his hand to directing with his first feature film Indignation. Based on Philip Roth’s book of the same name, Schamus’ version is a stunted drama of very little substance… read more

Little Men
Directed by Ira Sachs
Starring Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle and Paulina García

Both what I like and dislike from director Ira Sachs’ previous film Love Is Strange can be found in his latest feature Little Men.  The score can often stray into the sappy and saccharine, overwhelming the narrative of the film with its repetitive incorporation.  Yet, much like Love Is StrangeLittle Men is a beautiful observational drama with a sense of realism that truly brings Sachs’ characters to life on screen… read more

Maggie's Plan
Maggie’s Plan
Directed by Rebecca Miller
Starring Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Bill Hader, Maya Rudoloph and Julianne Moore

Greta Gerwig can often be seen playing a certain type of character, fraught with self-imposed drama going through one personal crisis after another.  Maggie is a more mature version of Gerwig’s quintessential character, a perfect role for the actress to have naturally grown into… read more


Director Rebecca Miller was joined by Maggie’s Plan stars Greta Gerwig and Julianne Moore to promote the film at the 66th Berlinale Film Festival.  Maggie’s Plan focuses on thirty-something Maggie (Gerwig) who ends up in a relationship with the husband of Georgette (Moore).  The film is about destiny and Maggie’s fight to control it… read more

News from Planet Mars (Des nouvelles de la planète Mars)

Directed by Dominik Moll
Starring François Damiens, Vincent Macaigne, Veerle Baetens, Jeanne Guittet and Tom Rivoire

Philippe Mars is a nice guy. Maybe too nice. And even though he tries to put down his foot sometimes, people don’t seem to care, they expect him to help out. His ex-wife drops off the kids in the middle of the night to go on a last minute job abroad even though she’s only had them for two days. His sister wants him to look after her dog for a week and doesn’t take no for an answer. His boss wants him to work on a second project even though he only has time for one. And one night, his ex-colleague, who’s just thrown a knife in his direction the day before, calls him from outside his house and says he’s just escaped from the psychiatric clinic and wants to stay at his for a couple of nights… read more

Shepherds and Butchers
Directed by Oliver Schmitz
Starring Steve Coogan, Garion Dowds and Andrea Riseborough

A South African courtroom drama examining the nation’s death penalty stance was the last thing I wanted to see at a 10:45pm screening at this year’s already exhausting Berlinale film festival. Preconceptions were best left at the cinema door as Shepherds and Butchers gripping courtroom scenes and harrowing hangings held my full attention long into the midnight hour… read more


Directed by Wang Bing

In Ta’ang, director Wang Bing follows selected Burmese families as they flee from their villages, brought on by the fighting between the rebels and the military. As audience, you are merely an observer as the families go about their day to day lives, eating, cooking, talking, sleeping, playing etc… read more

Directed by Tatiana Huezo

Tempestad beautifully immerses you into the very moving story of a young mother who’s victimized by corruption in Mexico as she is falsely accused of human trafficking. This documentary takes you through her story without you ever seeing her on screen. You only hear her voice telling the story while watching images of the 2000km road trip that takes her back to her home in south Mexico after being released from prison… read more

The Commune (Kollektivet)
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Starring Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Helene Reingaard Neumann, Martha Sofie Wallstrøm Hansen and Lars Ranthe

At the heart of The Commune is the story of a woman who seemingly has it all yet wants more.  When that more is introduced, her life unravels as does her emotional stability as she spirals into a deep yet volatile depression.  Trine Dyrholm gives a powerful performance with emotional fragility that is captivating to watch on screen.  She carries this film with effortless ease as the events of The Commune unfold around her… read more

The Dolby Atmos® Master Class
With The Post Republic
Featuring Christian Conrad and Lars Ginzel

Berlinale Talents is an initiative of the Berlin International Film Festival which hosts an extensive programme of master classes and panel discussions with experts in the film industry.  Talents is closely linked with the programmes of the festival sections, curating its events based on what or who is featured in the main strand of the Berlinale… read more

Things to Come (L’avenir)

Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve
Starring Isabelle Huppert and Roman Kolinka

Mia Hansen-Løve was awarded the Berlinale 2016 Silver Bear Award for directing Things to Come (L’avenir), the story of an older woman who must start her life anew.  A philosophical approach to the plight of the modern aging woman, Things to Come uses subtlety and grace in its depiction, with Isabelle Huppert’s beautiful and vulnerable performance as the heart and soul of this film… read more

War on Everyone

Directed by John Michael McDonagh
Starring Michael Peña, Alexander Skarsgård, Theo James, Tessa Thompson and Caleb Landry Jones

Terry and Bob are the bad cops in this American comedy directed by Irish filmmaker John Michael McDonagh. They follow no rules but make their own in spite of charges of bribery, assault and racism. And then they meet someone who seems to be more hardcore than they are… read more

Where to Invade Next
Directed by Michael Moore

More of a political comedy than a classic documentary, Michael Moore’s latest film Where to Invade Next takes a satirizing look at America and its shortcomings.  Setting aside audience expectations, this film does not focus on American military critique, but rather it’s a travelogue of sorts as Michael Moore visits select countries, “invading” them to steal their best ideas to take back to America.  He admittedly is there “to pick the flowers, not the weeds” as he overlooks countries’ flaws to focus on some of the inspiring social mandates from around the globe… read more

Zero Days
Directed by Alex Gibney

You may have read an article or heard murmurings about Stuxnet – a computer virus allegedly created and implemented by America and Israel to target Iran’s nuclear facilities with the aim of destroying them.  Alex Gibney’s latest documentary Zero Days primarily focuses on the Stuxnet virus, but what it unravels is a much more complex and sinister new method of modern warfare – cyber warfare… read more

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