Since its inception in 1951, the Berlin International Film Festival (or Berlinale) has consistently been one of the world’s most exciting and prestigious film festivals. Over the years, it has grown in both numbers of attendees and submissions and has garnered a reputation for programming some of the most compelling films that the European and International film industries have to offer. While the Oscars draw ever closer, the new film year is well underway, with the 2024 Sundance Film Festival exciting avid film fans and growing the anticipation for a brand new season of films. With Berlinale next on the list of major festivals (running from 2/15-2/25), let’s explore ten highly anticipated films that are having their world premieres at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival (alphabetically).
“ANOTHER END”In recent years, filmmakers have taken to exploring humanity through the lens of the growing presence of technology and artificial intelligence in our lives. Piero Messina’s sci-fi romance tells the story of a man who tries a technology that allows the consciousness of a dead person to enter a living body after the loss of his wife. Starring Gael García Bernal and Renate Reinsve, “Another End” seeks to understand grief and the finite nature of life in a modern world that tries to postpone death.
“Black Tea” is the latest film from director Abderrahmane Sissako, after the major success of his previously Oscar-nominated work, “Timbuktu.” The film follows a young woman who finds love in the Chinese city of Guangzhou after leaving her husband-to-be on the day of their wedding in the Ivory Coast. It examines the complex Chinese-African relationship through an unlikely romance that forms in a tea shop.
Little is known about “Cuckoo,” Tilman Singer’s new horror film. Set for a U.S. release in May, it could be one of this spring’s horror hits. A NEON acquisition, “Cuckoo’s” promotional material has been sparse and is designed such that it evokes curiosity, a far cry from many horror trailers, which often give away the entire plot. The teaser trailer is simple, only showing the back of Hunter Schaffer (“Euphoria”) as she skillfully wields a butterfly knife to an ominous soundscape. Also featuring performances from Dan Stevens and Jessica Henwick, “Cuckoo” looks to be one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the season.
Berlinale is famed not only for its narrative features but also for its fantastic selection of international documentaries. “Atlantics” filmmaker Mati Diop’s latest documentary, “Dahomey,” delves into the return of royal artifacts that were stolen from the Kingdom of Dahomey (Benin) by colonial France. The film explores the political and societal challenges of a country that has been forced to rebuild in the absence of its own historical artifacts and is sure to ignite the ongoing conversation around the ownership of stolen histories.
“THE DEVIL’S BATH”
Staying in the horror lane, the Austrian film “The Devil’s Bath” tells the story of a young woman who feels trapped in her marriage to a stranger. Directed by the duo behind “Goodnight Mommy” and “The Lodge,” Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, this upcoming Shudder film is anticipated to deliver a dread-filled experience. The historical, psychological horror explores the mental and physical violence that impoverished women in 18th-century Austria had to endure as part of their everyday lives.
Following an excellent year for food-on-screen (see Season 2 of “The Bear” and “The Taste of Things“), “La Cocina” continues this trend by focusing on a restaurant kitchen in New York City. Directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios and based on the play by Arnold Wesker, “La Cocina” explores the ways that food brings people together. The film, starring Rooney Mara and Raúl Briones Carmona, has been described as ‘tragic and comic’ and is sure to entertain food lovers everywhere.
“THE ROUNDUP: PUNISHMENT”
The latest installment in the South Korean film series, “The Roundup: Punishment,” follows detective Ma Seok-do as he uncovers the dark world behind online gambling. Directed by Heo Myeong- haeng (“Badland Hunters”), the intense action crime thriller is set to continue exciting audiences around the world leaving them in awe of its hard-hitting action.
“SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE”
After meteoric success in Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” Oscar-nominee Cillian Murphy stars alongside Ciarán Hinds and Emily Watson in Tim Mielants’ new drama. Based on Claire Keegan’s novel of the same name, “Small Things Like These” tells the story of a coal seller who unveils a secret surrounding the local convent associated with Magdalene’s laundry. An examination of morality and corruption in the Catholic Church in Ireland, the festival’s opening night film is bound to be an emotional and complex viewing experience.
“Spaceman” is arguably one of Berlinale’s highest-profile films this year. Set for a Netflix release on March 1st and starring Adam Sandler and Carey Mulligan, the sci-fi tells the story of a man determined to become the first Czech astronaut. While working in solitary confinement, the astronaut comes across a creature who seems to be from the beginning of time itself (voiced by Paul Dano). Based on the novel “Spaceman of Bohemia,” the film explores the breakdown of a marriage and the life of a man on the edge of the solar system.
“THE STRANGER’S CASE”
Set in Aleppo during the Syrian war, “The Stranger’s Case” depicts the story of a pediatric surgeon whose life is altered forever by a series of events, and in turn, changes the lives of those around her. Taking its title from the Shakespearean description of the difficulty of being a refugee, Brandt Andersen’s latest film explores the complex and generational impact of war on ordinary people.
What are you most looking forward to watching at the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account. You can listen to their preview of the festival here and be on the lookout for my reactions on social media, my written reviews and podcast recap upon my return. The Berlin International Film Festival runs from February 15th – 25th and the full list of programming can be found here.
You can follow Katie and hear more of her thoughts on the Oscars & Film on Twitter at @katiedoesfilms