Debate about sex, power looms in Berlin film fest

Director Wes Anderson's animated feature Isle Of Dogs (far left) is in the race for the Berlin film festival's top prize, the Golden Bear.
Director Wes Anderson's animated feature Isle Of Dogs (far left) is in the race for the Berlin film festival's top prize, the Golden Bear.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BERLIN • Sexual predators in Hollywood have been called dogs and pigs. Coincidental or not, the Berlin film festival, Europe's first major cinema showcase since the Harvey Weinstein scandal roiled the industry, starts on Thursday with director Wes Anderson kicking off the race for the Golden Bear top prize with the animated feature Isle Of Dogs.

It is voiced by a cast including Bill Murray and Oscar nominee Greta Gerwig.

Organisers said they were careful to promote diversity - four of the 19 films in competition are by women - and disqualify film-makers accused of sexual misconduct.

But debate around sex and power looks set to dominate the 11-day event, on screen and off. Here are major talking points: #MeToo: The Berlinale's veteran chief Dieter Kosslick said it would provide a "forum" to bring about "concrete changes" to the treatment of women in the film industry.

But even before the event began, a South Korean actress accused organisers of hypocrisy for inviting director Kim Ki Duk, who allegedly forced her into unscripted sex scenes in his 2013 movie Moebius. Women out in front: Long relegated by Hollywood to the role of muse, victim or sidekick, women look set to be in the driving seat in many of the highest-profile movies. The Crown breakout star Claire Foy and French screen legend Isabelle Huppert will dominate the action in two keenly awaited thrillers.

Steven Soderbergh will unveil Unsane, a movie he shot on an iPhone, featuring Foy in a tale of a woman fighting to regain freedom after she is committed against her will to a mental asylum.

Huppert is in femme fatale mode in the 1945 novel adaptation Eva, wreaking havoc in the life of a prominent writer.

Damsel, billed as a feminist western, stars Robert Pattinson as a bumbling cowboy hoping to rescue his quicker-witted beloved (Mia Wasikowska).

And the biopic Becoming Astrid sheds new light on the tragic early life of the beloved author of the Pippi Longstocking books, Astrid Lindgren, and how it inspired one of the greatest heroines of children's literature. Stars slip behind camera: It is the actor's age-old dream to wrest control from the director on set and two Berlinale guests have managed to mount their first passion projects in a tough market environment.

Rupert Everett, a pioneer of gay cinema, will present The Happy Prince, an Oscar Wilde biopic in which he also stars.

Idris Elba, rumoured to become the first black James Bond, will be in Berlin with Yardie, set among West Indian drug gangs warring on London streets. Ripped from the headlines: Brazil's Jose Padilha will premiere 7 Days In Entebbe, starring Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruehl, based on the true story of an Israeli rescue mission following a 1976 hijacking of an Air France jet.

Museum, starring Gael Garcia Bernal, depicts the shocking heist of artefacts from Mexico City's National Museum of Anthropology in the 1980s. Beyond the cinema: The Berlinale ranks with Cannes and Venice among Europe's top film festivals and sees itself as the most socially engaged.

It will stage a screening for inmates at a local prison of The Silent Revolution, based on a little-known story of protests against East Germany's communist regime. The event will also reach out to the tens of thousands of asylum seekers who have arrived in the German capital since 2015, offering internships to young refugees and free movie tickets for adults and children.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2018, with the headline 'Debate about sex, power looms in Berlin film fest'. Print Edition | Subscribe