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The 71st  Berlinale International Film Festival will be held March 1–5 (market) & June 9–20, 2021.
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First films of the Berlin Critics’ Week 2021


How memory is not free of images and images are not beyond cycles of oppression. What people and trees have to say to each other. And the hope to surprise oneself through new connections. The first films and debates of the Berlin Critics’ Week 2021 at a glance. The film program will be available to the public virtually throughout Germany from February 27 to March 7. Debates on the programs will take place online every day from March 1 to 7 and will be broadcast live.

Under the title "Facing Traces," two films that approach drastic realities via speculations, fragments, and abstractions will meet on the opening night of the film and debate program of this year's Critics’ Week. For "The Sky Is Red," filmmaker Francina Carbonell worked her way through 60 hours of footage created in 2010 in connection with the horrific San Miguel prison fire in Chile, portraying a moment of destruction in which images worked against people: As prison inmates burned, surveillance cameras were pointed at blank walls by guards. Our conference guest Suneil Sanzgiri's work explores forms of oppression and their connections with decoloniality, history, and memory. In "Letter From Your Far-off Country," he engages with various political struggles in India in the form of a biographical essay. The filmmaker addresses the titular letter to a relative who was an important representative of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

"Talking Style": on the closing night of Critics’ Week, two youth films will engage in dialogue with each other, offering a contrast through their stylistic choices. We are excited to present the World Premiere of Caroline Pitzen's "LEISURE or: the opposite of doing nothing" Pitzen and her DoP Markus Koob ("Selbstkritik eines bürgerlichen Hundes") explore with curious glances how young Berlin activists discuss political struggles, reflect on their actions, and try to imagine the next steps for society. It's a scenario in which free time cannot be disentangled from the question of freedom. Their film meets "A Museum Sleeps" by Camille de Chenay, which film critic Cyril Neyrat enthusiastically commended at the 2020 FIDMarseille festival: "The emergence of a new fiction film director is not a common thing anymore in France, and it hasn't been in a long time. So, what exactly is a fiction film director? It is someone who has an infectious thirst for designing frames, for shaping lights and colors, someone who enjoys linking sequences, making jump cuts or wiping from one shot to the next. Their films make apparent that cinema is painting expanded by music – through a game of timbres, the modulation of speed and tones, the precision of rhythms." A program of two debut films, with a debate on the new voices of cinema and the protean rhetoric of film.

In recent months, the international film festival landscape has changed. Due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, events all over the world have had to develop new ways of presenting and discussing films. Likewise, unexpected forms of collaboration have emerged, along with a new openness to deviations from existing routines of programming. The Berlin Critics’ Week explores the insights of the past months and transforms them into a method: We invited international festivals that had never collaborated before to propose films and curate programs together with us. For the first such festival tandem, Duisburger Filmwoche and Black Canvas Contemporary Film Festival will present a double program of "first in first out" by Zacharias Zitouni and "Intimate Distances" by Phillip Warnell. Under the title "Beyond Recognition," we are joined by representatives from the two festivals to question cinema's ability to make the world and human beings recognizable, and consider whether they automatically become more tangible and accessible in the process.

The first programs at a glance


Dir.: Francina Carbonell, CHI 2020, 73 min., Spanish OwEs – German Premiere

Dir.: Suneil Sanzgiri, USA/IND 2020, 17 min., Hindi/Urdu OwEs – German Premiere


Dir.: Caroline Pitzen, GER 2021, 71 min., German OwEs – World Premiere

Dir.: Camille de Chenay, FRA 2020, 71 min., French OwEs – International Premiere


Dir.: Zacharias Zitouni, GER/ALB, 26 min., German OmeU

Dir.: Phillip Warnell, GBR/USA 2020, 61 min., English OV – German Premiere



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About Berlin

Chatelin Bruno

Berlin 2019: The dailies from the Berlin Film Festival brought to you by our team of festival ambassadors. Vanessa McMahon, Alex Deleon, Laurie Gordon, Lindsay Bellinger and Bruno Chatelin...
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