Despite the many limitations imposed on this year’s Berlinale, which is technically only the digital component before a hopeful physical event in June, the feature films were as brilliant as ever, representing a truly memorable year. Spanning from regular auteurs such as Radu Jude and Hong Sangsoo to new competition entrants such as Maria Speth and Benedek Fliegauf, the feature films at Berlinale range from the deeply personal to the political, proving the power of great cinema during one of its most challenging years. Our ten favourite films, from nine different countries, show off the vitality of world-cinema at this strange juncture in time.
Mr Bachmann and His Class by Maria Speth
Easily my standout favourite film of the festival, Mr Bachmann and His Class is an intimate epic, surveying a year in the life of the teacher every student wished they had. Taking its time to accompany him as he tries to bring out his students, some of whom have only arrived in Germany within the last six months, this is inspirational documentary filmmaking at its best.
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn by Radu Jude
Radu Jude has been on my radar ever since the sensational I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians as one of Europe’s great filmmakers and one of its greatest consciences. With the Golden Bear-winning Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn he mercilessly pulls apart the hypocrisy at the heart of Romanian society, using a tripartite structure to stunning and smart effect.
The World After Us by Louda Ben Salah-Cazanas
Perhaps one of the more low-key entries in the Berlinale, The World After Us is a sleek and humorous portrait of a writer that gains its power from its delightful portrayal of the innocent grifts and moves he uses to get by. A hidden gem.
All Eyes Off Me by Hadas Ben Aroya
An Israeli take on a Lena Dunham TV show, All Eyes Off Me is a fascinating portrait of narcissistic teenagers living in Tel Aviv. While this could’ve easily come off as self-indulgent, the precise characterisation and framing make it a deeply compelling watch.
Petite Maman by Céline Sciamma
Sciamma’s latest was one of the most hyped entries in this year’s Berlinale, and her follow up to Portrait of a Lady on Fire does not disappoint. Inspired by the child-focused tales of Hayao Miyazaki, her fleet-footed, 70-minute tale is a dose of countryside magic containing remarkable emotional power.
Introduction by Hong Sangsoo
Hong Sangsoo can be a bit hit and miss with cinephiles, meaning you have to be tuned into his reality to really ‘get’ his films. Introduction, a tale of lost love and exploration between reality and art, is hardly the place to start with his work, but hardcore fans will be delighted.
Forest – I See You Everywhere by Benedek Fliegauf
In a line-up filled with dialogue heavy films, the aggressive back-and-forths of Fliegauf’s latest might be the richest of all, an anthology of combative conversations that remains deeply compelling despite the dark subject matter. Not an easy conversation, but perhaps the one we need to hear.
Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy by Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Between this and Songsoo’s latest, the spirit of Éric Rohmer seems to be alive and well in Hamaguchi’s latest, a sparkling trio of short stories that show off his excellent talent at constructing whole worlds through the simplest of set-ups.
Courage by Aliaksei Paluyan
Perhaps the most important political film at the festival, Courage immerses us into the protest movement that engulfed Belarus after dictator Alexander Lukashenko falsified the elections last year. Focusing on a trio of actors taking to the streets, it excellently questions the importance of art in an authoritarian society.
What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? by Alexandre Koberidze
For those of us who can’t wait for the Euros in June (assuming they happen at all), Alexandre Koberidze’s sophomore film excellently evokes the magic of watching football in his Kutaisi-set fable, his generous camera surveying the people and dogs that make up the rustic-looking city.
Find more unmissable films in our Best of Fest collections.