With 130 promos in their line-up, the Berlin Music Video Awards offers a truly comprehensive overview of the current state of the music video industry. Spanning from low-budget independent productions to music videos for internationally recognised artists as big as Doja Cat and Lana Del Rey, from gangster stories to environmental allegory, the 13-category festival celebrates the best and brightest visions around. Ahead of the festival’s 29th June opening date, DN has chosen ten standout efforts. Picking just ten videos has been an arduous task, but believe that our selection — with no two films the same — shows off just how diverse and innovative the music video form can be.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: 911 by Damso | DOP. Starr Whitesides
Starr Whitesides’ camera knows no bounds in 911, swooping through neon-streaked cityscapes and gorgeous seaside landscapes as Belgian-Congolese singer Damso plays a gangster falling in love while the police close in. Doomed relationships have rarely looked so seductive.
BEST DIRECTOR: Never Ever by Husky | Dir. Evgenii Bakirov
Never Ever from Shot by Sasha director Evgenii Bakirov sees Russian rapper Husky (who we recently featured in soul stealing muscian’s nightmare Tale of the Deaf) working as a janitor cleaning up murdered bodies and emptying clips in a warehouse while reflecting on his life’s choices. An oddly touching film, given the context.
BEST EDITOR: My High by Disclosure, Aminé & Slowthai | Ed. Yorgos Lamprinos
A man in a stretcher is wheeled through a series of more and more absurd situations in My High, which combines the music of British garage with the aesthetic of American skate videos. This chaotic situation is given a sense of shape and inevitability by Yorgos Lamprinos’ excellent editing.
BEST LOW-BUDGET: Maria by Samuum | Dir. Andranik Berberian & Levon Bakunc
Berbarian and Bakunc show us a kidnapping, Caucasian style, in the Armenian-set Maria, utilising a grainy aesthetic, unsettling choreography and a tight aspect ratio to criticise traditional gender norms. Provocative yet incredibly danceable.
BEST EXPERIMENTAL: Apricots by Bicep | Dir. Mark Jenkin
DN alumn Mark Jenkin turned heads when Bait pointed towards a new, exciting vision for British cinema in 2019. Apricots is another great example of his innovative lo-fi, analog approach (which he eloquently explains in his director’s commentary) , shooting on 16mm and using stop-motion to create a flowing portrait of moving objects and landscapes that perfectly complement the repetitive electronic beats of Bicep.
BEST CONCEPT: Hookah is Burning Out by To-Má | Dir. Misha Semichev & Roman Kim
Russia’s love of shisha and watermelons is taken to the absolute extreme in Hookah is Burning Out, which doubles up as an ode to the great possibilities of rural summer. Multiple reverse zooms, film grain and well-placed portraiture help to show off the timelessness of cultural norms.
BEST ANIMATION: Feel Good by Polo & Pan | Dir. Mathilde Loubes & Antoine Bonnet
A celebration of the power of friendship, Feel Good is one of the most euphoric and joyful music videos I’ve ever seen. Whether it’s bike rides, skipping stones, dancing, tasting food, finding lovers or taking holidays, Feel Good’s exploration of male camaraderie is a delight to behold. With nods to classic musicals and the Italian fantasy of Call Me By Your Name, it’s as emotional as any Pixar tearjerker.
BEST NARRATIVE: I Died by Kuba Kawalec | Dir. Zuzanna Plisz
A pregnant woman arrives in a convent looking for help in Zuzanna Plisz’ austere black-and-white Polish drama, trafficking heavily in Catholic imagery that recalls the films of Pawel Pawlikowski. Weaving in elements of horror, it excellently shows the innate terror of giving birth in a fleeting 4-minute runtime.
MOST TRASHY: I Am Spanish, But I Own a Kebab by Los Estanques | Dir. David Triviño
This insanely catchy tune is an ode to one of the tastiest snacks man can buy for a fiver or less: the humble kebab. With rapid camera movements, deliberately fake studio shots, shopfront montages, and durum POV perspectives, this wrap seem to have a little bit of everything in it.
MOST BIZARRE: Color Me by Active Child | Dir. Martin de Thurah
Filled with incredible CGI, striking black-and-white chiaroscuro and elegant yet ugly body horror, Color Me is a remarkably inventive portrayal of a woman being subsumed into the wider world, providing an arthouse allegory for our relationship to the wider world. Colour me impressed.
You can find more unmissable films like these in our Best of Fest collections.