Second only to festivals in Cannes and Venice in glamour, the Berlinale claims to be the world's largest film festival open to the public. Anyone with the pluck to negotiate the overwhelming lineup – 391 films with a total of 970 showings this year – can experience the best global cinema has to offer.
From the festival's nine categories, the winners are:
If you see nothing else this Berlinale, the freshly restored Metropolis should be on your list. But you only get one chance! Bundle up, grab your flask, and brave the frosty weather to see the legendary silent science fiction film in its original glory at an outdoor public showing at 8pm on February 12 at the Brandenburg Gate. If you prefer your sofa, broadcaster ARTE will be airing the film, along with the live orchestra soundtrack, at the same time.
All twenty films competing for the top Golden Bear prize for best film, and the Silver Bears for best acting, production and screenplay, are likely to be well worth seeing. Here are a few of our favourites.
”Exit Through the Gift Shop”
The elusive graffiti artist Banksy's first film is sure to be popular. Here he inverts the outside world's curiosity about his persona with what he calls “a film about a man who is trying to make a film about me.”
Berlin hipsters are likely to flock to this flick, starring the dreamy James Franco as Allen Ginsberg during the San Francisco obscenity trial about the famous Beat Generation poet's work “Howl.”
This period Chinese film opens the festival and depicts a soldier forced to flee communism for Taiwan in 1949 who more than 50 years later attempts to reunite with the love of his life – only by then she is married to sergeant in the communist army.
”The Ghost Writer”
Following the highly-publicised legal drama in Roman Polanski's personal life, all eyes will be on his new film starring Ewan McGregor, which was finished from the director's Swiss chalet while on house arrest.
This section focuses on new and provocative independent films, and this year looks back at the relationship of past and present in honour of the festival's birthday. It also offers viewers a chance to vote for their favourite film for the Panorama Audience Award (PPP)! The “TEDDY” Queer Film Award is also issued for movies in the section, which explores LGBT issues.
Dubbed “'Pricilla Queen of the Desert' in the snow,” by festival organisers, this Russian film gets to know five Moscow drag queens and the dark stories behind their glamour.
”Beautiful Darling: The Life And Times Of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar”
This film is a homage to the transsexual entertainer Candy Darling, one of the most memorable figures of New York City subculture in the 1960s and 1970s. Take a deeper look at the character who inspired Lou Reed's song “Wild Side.”
Those looking to get down with the locals can beef up on their Deutsch skills with the 14 films in the German programme.
“The Boy Who Wouldn't Kill
Anyone interested in the way Germans interpret the Western film genre, whether or not they are fans Winnetou and Old Shatterhand, will want to see the most recent re-invention, heavy with special effects.
Portraits of German Alcoholics
According to Berlinale organisers, the documentary remains strong among German filmmakers, and one of this year's examples, directed by Carlin Schmitz, manages to create arresting depictions of her subjects though they're never directly addressed by her camera.
This section is a chance for young experimental filmmakers to splash onto the cinema scene and make the most of restriction-free entry requirements. The “echoes of the global crisis have finally reached the movies,” organisers say, and these reverberations can be felt in these films:
This film takes place at Paris' Orly airport, a place where people come and go between events in their lives. Director Angela Schanelec observes four couples in transit with an underlying sense of longing and detachment.
In this documentary German director Gemma Bak herself – as well as her psychosis – is the issue at hand as she explores her mental health through discussions with friends and family.
For cinema fans who want to bone up on their film trivia facts or see that influential film they've been meaning to look up, the Retrospective is their chance. This year in honour of the Berlinale's 60th birthday viewers can see films from festivals past.
”The Deer Hunter”
The Soviet delegation, including two members of the Berlinale jury famously walked out on this Vietnam War film starring Robert De Niro which showed at the 1979 festival. See for yourself why they and other communist countries found its portrayal of the Vietnamese so offensive.
”The Marriage of Maria Braun”
Legendary director Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1978 drama about the difficult life of a woman during and after the Second World War is a film that every German film buff should see.
Twenty-five films from 15 countries are competing for the Golden and Silver Bear short film awards in one of the festival's more experimental sections. You can view them in clusters at several different showings where the films focus on topics ranging from feminism to bank robberies. Though it's running out of competition, the animated short “The Song of the Red Forest,” about two musical beings who sing about their world is a must see.
Find something for your precocious wee ones and tweens in this section, which is split into “Generation Kplus” for the 13 and under crowd, and “Generation 14plus” for the more grown-up children. There are some 28 films competing for a Crystal Bear in both sections, with another 10 showing outside the competition. Many of the films, set in exotic far-off places, will appeal to budding geographers. But if you don't think your rugrats can sit still through English subtitles, opt for the section's few original English films. Our picks:
”This Way of Life”
Set in New Zealand, this film recommended for children 12 and older follows a young Maori boy and his father on a journey where they catch wild horses, eat boar meat grilled over a campfire, frolic in rivers and live by their own rules.
This outlandish film recommended for children older than 14 centres on a teenager who lives in a geodatic dome and writes imaginative science fiction stories. When he takes his best manuscript to a writing workshop extraordinary things happen.
The fourth annual instalment of Culinary Cinema invites guests to employ all five senses as they revel in the consumption of delectable cuisine, refreshing beverages and some circumspect cinematic discussion.
”The Botany of Desire”
Eat bison steak and organic hemp salad prepared by a Michelin-star chef while you learn about the relationship between humans and plants. Apples, tulips, marijuana and potatoes to be precise.
Microwave some popcorn, put on your slippers and catch the highly-anticipated Berlinale Awards Ceremony from your couch on TV. The elaborate gala event at the Berlinale Palast will present the festival's most important prizes, the Gold and Silver Bears. Tune in on February 20 to German channel 3sat starting at 6:55 pm.