BERLIN (Reuters) - A legendary jazz guitarist on the run from the Nazis, a family trapped in a Syrian apartment as bombs rain down, and a shooting at a Madrid bar - those are some of the roughly 400 stories that will hit screens at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
The 67th edition of the “Berlinale” opens on Thursday with “Django”, which takes viewers back to occupied France in 1943 and the life of Romani guitarist Django Reinhardt who refuses to take part in a tour of Germany that the Nazis want to use to divert attention from American “negro” jazz.
The film by French producer-turned-director Etienne Comar is one of many dealing with social or political issues, not an unusual situation for Berlin, according to Scott Roxborough of The Hollywood Reporter.
“They like to be the most political of the big film festivals and that’s definitely going to be the case again this year,” he said.
Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick has said this year’s festival will describe the “daily apocalypse” we live through, with many directors using the past to try and explain the unsettling present.
Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, famed for films such as “Basic Instinct” and “RoboCop”, heads the jury that will decide which of the 18 films in competition will win Golden and Silver Bears.
Alongside “Django”, films in contention include “The Other Side of Hope” about a Syrian refugee in Finland, a family drama called “The Dinner” starring Richard Gere, and “Joaquim” about Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier, who fought in the 18th century to free Brazil from colonial power Portugal.
Roxborough said documentaries were getting a lot of attention this year.
“I think it does have something to do with this phenomenon of fake news or the incredible speed at which news is being consumed now - that with a documentary ... you can really reflect in a way that’s really impossible in the 24-hour news cycle,” he said.
One documentary is in competition: “Beuys” about German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys whose work was rubbished in Germany but celebrated in an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Roxborough said new geo-political realities would be in the minds of many filmmakers at the festival:
“The film industry is a global industry; it really relies on talent and goods and services being able to move easily across borders and that could be under threat now given some of the policies that are coming out of the U.S. under President Donald Trump.”
Reporting by Michelle Martin and Swantje Stein; Editing by Robin Pomeroy