Berlin International Film Festival 2024 Report


The final Berlinale led by Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian was – as ever – an eclectic mix of films: from heart-tugging documentaries and experimental sci-fi to tender comedies and a work almost entirely narrated by a hippo.

This February, my programming colleague / delightful travel companion Kate Fitzpatrick and I gratefully left Melbourne’s late-summer heatwave to venture back to chilly Berlin for 10 days or so of meetings and screenings. The first couple of days are always completely consumed by the European Film Market (EFM), and this year was no different. Sales agents, producers and organisations set up booths spanning the two floors of the historical Gropius Bau in Potsdamer Platz, and we scurried between as many agents as we could fit into our tight schedules, occasionally heading to a hotel lobby or café to meet up and discuss film slates. It’s a crucial part of the festival programming process but also a nice opportunity to catch up with agents outside of our inboxes, putting faces to lengthy email signatures.

As the EFM wrapped up, the film screenings were given our full attention. It was lovely to be back in some of the world’s most beautiful cinemas: the Kino International built during the era of the GDR in former East Berlin, a large box jutting above Karl-Marx-Allee with its deep-blue seats and twinkling ceiling lights; the Zoo Palast Kino in Charlottenburg, which houses two theatres, the largest a grand room with cascading pale-gold curtains (described amusingly as looking like stacked Pringles by US filmmaker Jane Schoenbrun following the international premiere of their film, I Saw the TV Glow); and, of course, the Berlinale Palast, a large multistorey theatre that is used for musicals and theatre productions during the rest of the year but becomes the official home for competition premieres and gala events during the festival.

Above: No Other Land  |  Header: Berlinale 2024

Eight strands made up the official 2024 program, and Kate and I managed to divide and conquer to see an eye-watering number of films. Impossible to include them all, so highlights from some of the strands outside the main competition include: Kazik Radwanski’s (Anne at 13,000 Ft, MIFF 2020) warm two-hander Matt and Mara, starring Deragh Campbell and Matt Johnson (whose film BlackBerry [MIFF 2023] premiered in competition at last year’s Berlinale); the Documentary Award winner No Other Land, made by a Palestinian–Israeli collective; Macu Machín’s Canary Islands–set The Undergrowth, which blends fact and fiction; and, over in the Berlinale Special section, Nicolas Philibert’s Averroès & Rosa Parks, the follow-up to last year’s Golden Bear winner On the Adamant (MIFF 2023), as well as the Zellner brothers’ audacious Sasquatch Sunset, which stars Riley Keough and Jesse Eisenberg as, yes, sasquatches (and I’ve got to say: I was incredibly moved by it!).

A few key films from competition include My Favourite Cake by Ballad of a White Cow (MIFF 2021) co-directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha, which I guarantee will entirely steal your heart; the visually staggering Architecton by Victor Kossakovsy, which probes our continued use of stone and the cement decay that has been left behind by urbanisation; the wild La Cocina by Alonso Ruizpalacios, with its investigation into the hustle and immigration issues of a New York grillhouse that stars Raúl Briones opposite Rooney Mara; Olivier Assayas’s Suspended Time, which finally proves that one can make a beautiful film set in the time of COVID lockdowns; and the aforementioned ‘hippo movie’ Pepe, an ambitious and totally unique work by Nelson Carlos de los Santos Arias.

And would it be a Berlinale without a new Hong Sang-soo? He returns with the truly delightful A Traveler’s Needs, in which Isabelle Huppert plays a mysterious makgeolli-drinking French woman living in Korea and keeping herself semi-afloat by offering idiosyncratic language lessons. This year, too, the Golden Bear was so deserved: Mati Diop’s brilliant Dahomey traces the restitution of 26 stolen treasures from Paris to their rightful home in Benin. I had just left a cinema in Alexanderplatz when the news was announced, and I joined a huddle of Berliners applauding Diop’s speech as we watched on a pop-up screen in the street.

There was also a dedicated strand of Martin Scorsese’s films to celebrate his Honorary Golden Bear, and I was lucky to attend an intimate in-conversation between the legendary director and filmmaker Joanna Hogg, who led a fantastic 90-minute discussion taking in everything from his first films to his favourite choices of shoe on set. Before a restoration screening of his 1985 classic After Hours, Scorsese’s long-time collaborator and editor Thelma Schoonmaker gave a sprightly surprise introduction – much to the whoops and cheers of the audience.

Kate Jinx
MIFF Programmer