Festival season has opened: Sundance and Rotterdam have been and gone, and now that February is upon us, for film professionals around this world, this means one thing: Berlin. The 63rd Berlin Film Festival has begun, and the Watershed team are in the thick of it searching for films and opportunities to bring back to Bristol.
Our Head of Programme Mark Cosgrove and Programme Producer Maddy Probst have arrived in Berlin and are pouring over the massive lineup of more than 400 films over 11 days. They'll be reporting live throughout the Festival on Twitter using #shedbff - so check on Twitter for their updates, or see them all on DShed.
Before Mark jetted off to the bitter cold, he sat down to tell us a little bit more about the importance of Berlin, where exciting new discoveries can be found, and what kind of gems he is on the look out for:
Berlin is the largest public film festival in the world, and its two weeks of world-class cinema is a perfect platform for emergent and more established talent. This year's festival kicks off with Wong Kar Wai's martial-arts extravaganza The Grandmaster, which is screening out of competition because Wong is heading up the international jury. Nineteen films are competing for the top prize, the coveted Golden Bear, so they'll have a tough job choosing.
The Taviani Brothers' prison drama Caesar Must Die (which will open here in March) picked up the gong last year, a move which Mark then tweeted both surprised and delighted him.
Some of this year's contenders include Ulrich Seidl's Paradise: Hope, the final part of his trilogy dealing with the impossibility of paradise. Iranian director Jafar Panahi, a regular at the festival, presents Closed Curtain, about two people in hiding from the police, and Juliette Binoche plays the title role in Camille Claudel 1915, Bruno Dumont's examination of the famous sculptress (and lover of Auguste Rodin) who was committed to an insane asylum.
Other promising highlights include Gus Van Sant's Promised Land, about two salespeople (Matt Damon and Frances McDormand) who persuade landowners to give up their land for fracking (drilling for gas), and Hong Sang-soo's latest Nobody's Daughter Haewon, which follows the dream-like state of a depressed university student who is having an affair with her lecturer.
Berlin is noted for its signature blend of politics and parties. It has a reputation for a more hard-hitting, intense programme, and this year is no exception: many films deal with timely issues such as the global financial crisis, environmental problems, and social injustice. Films from Eastern Europe are well represented, and there is a welcome (especially after last year's Cannes, which was criticised for not having a single female director up for the Palme d'Or) spotlight on women.
Last year Mark and Maddy searched out Sugar Man, experienced Bob Marley, ate fortune cookies from Ai Wei Wei and even went into space with Nazis. Sounds like a tough one to beat, but we're sure this year's Berlin will be similarly full of surprises, and we can't wait to hear them.
By the time they arrive back in Bristol, they'll have a good idea of what projects they'll be bringing back to Watershed. You can read their very first thoughts on all the titles they see, and engage in the conversation. If you want their opinion on a certain film or agree or disagree with something they've said, just tell them! They're open to all of your questions and comments, so do give them a nudge and they'll get back to you.