by Annalisa Giacinti // Feb. 3, 2023
From February 16th to 26th, the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival returns to present around 400 films divided into various sections and special presentations with, this year, particular emphasis on work from Ukraine and Iran. “Film festivals are places that strengthen freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and peaceful dialogue,” assert Berlinale directors Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian. “With the ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine, and the courageous protests and liberation struggles in Iran, the 2023 Berlinale stands even more firmly for these democratic values, and remembers victims of war, destruction and oppression all over the world.” As one of the world’s most political festivals, the Berlinale has always advocated for an active cinema culture through diversity, cultural encounters and fruitful artistic reflection.
The section most conducive to these encounters is the Forum & Forum Expanded, which hosts wide-ranging discussions between filmmakers, artists and the audience after every screening. Curated and organised by Arsenal–Institute for Film and Video Art, it showcases experimental works from a broader range of disciplines, including visual art, theatre, performance, music and the media. With a carefully-curated selection of feature-length films, a group exhibition, stage and panel events, Forum & Forum Expanded challenges the commercial demands put on contemporary cinema.
This year’s programme, curated by Ala Younis and Uli Ziemons together with Karina Griffith and Shai Heredia, consists of 34 works from 20 countries. Topics revolve around political and personal legacies, individual trajectories, politically fraught histories and negotiations of intimacy. The films will be presented at SAVVY Contemporary, in the Marshall McLuhan Salon of the Embassy of Canada in Berlin, and at the silent green Betonhalle, where a group exhibition grappling with temporal and spatial distances will also take place. Below are some highlights taken from the diverse and compelling line-up.
Walid Raad: ‘Comrade leader, comrade leader, how nice to see you’ (2022)
One of the stand-outs in Forum Expanded exhibition at silent green Betonhalle is Lebanese artist Walid Raad’s new installation ‘Comrade leader, comrade leader, how nice to see you,’ which is part of his enduring interest in the intermingling of art, politics, and the natural world. The project features digitally-projected waterfalls inspired by the story of the Lebanese “Fickle Falls.” Their name kept changing according to the militias’ shifting alliances during the Lebanese Civil War. Raad’s work spreads across installation, performance, video and photography and investigates the tensions between fact and fiction.
Simone Leigh: ‘Conspiracy’ (2022)
Simone Leigh is one of the most significant artists working today and certainly a highlight of the Arsenal programme. She is the first ever Black American woman, together with British artist Sonia Boyce, to win the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, in 2022. Leigh’s expansive body of work includes sculpture, video, performance, with a focus on history, race, colonialism and gender. In ‘Conspiracy,’ which is a continuation of the work presented in Venice and of her unwavering commitment to the prolific community of Black female artists, Simone Leigh and Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich work together to fuse filmmaking and sculpture into a homage and poetic study of the manual labour that goes into making art.
Ana Vaz: ‘A árvore/A tree’ (2022)
Among the films premiering at Forum Expanded is Brazilian artist and filmmaker Ana Vaz’s “meditation-film,” an intimate collage made of 30-second sequences focusing on her father. Through her distinctively nostalgic yet sharp montage—a “mental sword” as she calls it—geographies, times, memories, the living and the dead get assembled and arranged together to investigate myth and history, the self and the other.
Tamer El Said: ‘Borrowing a Family Album’ (2023)
Egyptian filmmaker Tamer El Said returns to the Berlinale Festival with an archive-based installation that, through family footage, will encourage visitors to take a journey into their own family memories in an act of collective remembrance. The project, which takes El Said’s experience in filmmaking to new realms, will see its world premiere at silent green.
‘Time Tunnel: Takahiko Iimura at Kino Arsenal, 18. April 1973’
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek (today Arsenal), Arsenal Cinema will host a commemorative screening of Japanese artist and experimental film pioneer Takahiko Iimura’s videos, many of which were previously shown at the cinema in 1973. At that time, it was not yet possible to project the video images on the screen at the Arsenal, so employees brought in their own televisions from home, which were then synchronized to facilitate a collective experience. Iimura passed away in July 2022.
Anna Zett: ‘Es gibt keine Angst/Afraid Doesn’t Exist’ (2023)
In her new film, German artist and writer Anna Zett combines forgotten footage of the GDR Opposition obtained from the Berlin Archive, and delivers an exciting thriller that investigates the relations between the state of the police, experiences of violence and political self-empowerment.
The complete Forum Expanded program can be found online via arsenal-berlin.de and berlinale.de