The 2017 Berlin International Film Festival kicked off yesterday, February 9, running through the 19th. Among the films selected to screen in its Panorama section, 2 prominent themes emerge among: “a fresh historically reflective approach to the history of black people in North America, South America and Africa,” as the festival describes it; and “Europa Europa”, which explores “how progressive forces might best defend themselves in light of a zeitgeist that makes it seem as if yesterday never went away.”
Further extraordinarily sensitive and artistic works have been invited, and festivalgoers can expect a high degree of formal and thematic diversity from the complete program.
This Panorama emphasis on “Black Worlds” follows a related announcement last month that, for the first time, the 2017 Berlinale will provide a platform for innovative projects and ideas from across the continental African film industry. The “Berlinale Africa Hub” is an initiative of the European Film Market (EFM) in cooperation with the World Cinema Fund (and the special program it created in 2016, WCF Africa, which promotes films from Sub-Saharan Africa with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office), with Berlinale Talents (and its sister program Talents Durban, which supports talented African filmmakers throughout the year), and with the Berlinale Co-Production Market.
The opening film for this year’s Panorama main program comes from South Africa. The fabrication of masculinity has long been a consistent theme in Panorama. In director John Trengove’s “The Wound,” making its European premiere, audiences witness the initiation rites of a South African tribe as tradition and modernity collide when an urbanized businessman from Johannesburg resolves to expose his 17-year-old son to the circumcision ceremony of his old tribe.
Producer Elias Ribeiro previously delighted festival audiences in Panorama 2015 with “Necktie Youth.”
Watch a trailer for “The Wound” below:
Also set to screen under the “In Focus: Reclaiming Black History” sidebar is the Brazilian drama “Vazante” from director Daniela Thomas, which is making its World Premiere at the festival. Thomas, co-director of many joint productions with Walter Salles, presents her solo directorial debut.
“Vazante’s” story (co-written by Beto Amaral) is set in 1821, one year before the South American nation gained its independence from Portugal. Brazil was the last country to officially abolish slavery in its historical form, in 1888. The wealth that is extracted from the country comes in the form of gemstones from the mines of Minas Gerais. The precious jewels are excavated from the belly of the mountain by slaves; still absent today is any significant memorial to the suffering they endured. Although this era represents the foundation upon which today’s Brazil was built, its culture has yet to recover from the monstrosity of these events, which are at the center of the film.
It stars Adriano Carvalho, Luana Nastas, Juliana Carneiro da Cunha, Sandra Corveloni, Roberto Audio.
Watch 2 clips from “Vazante” below:
Also screening as part of the “In Focus: Reclaiming Black History” sidebar is Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” which has been covered plenty on this blog since we first heard about it last year, and is currently in USA theaters.
This represents the film’s European premiere.
Raoul Peck is also an esteemed guest at the Berlinale.
With “I Am Not Your Negro,” he has embarked on a long overdue reflection on the life of the great African American writer James Baldwin and his political struggle against racism, whose roots go back to slavery. History is always written by the victors, and black people were never among them, neither Africans nor African-Americans. In James Baldwin, a powerfully eloquent intellectual took to the stage and set marks that are as invigoratingly crucial to reckon with today as they were 50 years ago.
With “I Am Not Your Negro” and “The Young Karl Marx” in Berlinale Special, Raoul Peck is represented twice in this year’s festival program.