With a big year ahead in film releases, the recent festival circuit has brought some real competition, and after checking out what the Sundance Film Festival had to offer, it was time to head over to one of the most prestigious, the Berlinale. Known for premiering big Hollywood fare, as well as smaller independents, it also includes hard-hitting documentaries and a myriad of eye-opening biopics. Nearing the end of the 10-day festival, we’ve condensed the films down to our top ten favorites.

600 Millas

Directed by Gabriel Ripstein, the story centers on young Mexican, Arnulfo Rubio, who is a weapon smuggler for local drug pushers. US agent, Hank Harris, played by Tim Roth, is caught watching his activities and is taken hostage for Rubio’s colleagues to deal with. The violence is nail-biting and not for the faint of heart.

The Valley

A man who loses his memory after a car accident in Lebanon’s isolated Beqaa Valley, is taken in by inhabitants on a local farm-cum-drug production lab. With no identity, he soon finds himself a prisoner in their home. A sadistic plot is played out with strong tension and a sharp musical score.

 

The Diary of A Teenage Girl

Starring a creepy Alexander Skarsgard, serious Kristin Wiig and curious Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is set in 1970s San Francisco – the era of hippies and trying out new things. 15 year old Minnie is doing just that and is involved in a lurid affair with her mother’s charismatic boyfriend. Directed by Marielle Heller and based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel, it’s a stylish cinematic foray. Watch out for the comic strips that feature throughout the film.

I Am Michael

James Franco plays Michael, a gay activist who lives to support homosexual youths. After launching an LGBT magazine, he later denounces his homosexual status after embracing Christianity. The film is a sensitive biopic of Young Gay America co-founder Michael Glatze, and is finely directed by Justin Kelly. Ladies be warned, there is a threesome involving Mr. Franco, Zachary Quinto and Charlie Carver. 

Everything Will Be Fine

With a cast including Rachel McAdams, James Franco and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Wim Wenders tells the delicate story of writer Tomas, whose life changes after a car accident in which he kills a young boy.  However, when he starts a family, he slowly tries to forgive himself. Filmed in Montreal, the scenic cinematography is outstanding.

Knight of Cups

Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups is about Hollywood screenwriter, Rick, who is on the brink of success when he starts to descend into the shallow, seedy world of LA after the failure of his marriage. Think Pete Doherty after the Kate Moss break up. Getting mixed up in a world of drugs and excess, he is unable to tell the difference between what is real and what is not. Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman and Freida Pinto all make for a strong cast.

Life

It’s 1955 and photographer Dennis Stock has just met James Dean. The two collaborate in creating a series of iconic images for Life magazine, including the infamously haunting James Dean in Times Square print. Director Anton Corbijn was careful to ensure the film was more about the relationship between the two, than the status of the movie star. There’s been a real buzz around this film, which stars Robert Pattinson and Dane Dehaan.

Love & Mercy

Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy is about Brian Wilson, mastermind behind legendary group The Beach Boys. As the years go on, Melinda, his second wife, learns more about his complex character, which correlates with his schizophrenic state. Elizabeth Banks, Paul Dano and John Cusack star in the drama. God only knows, this one’s for the fans.

As We Were Dreaming

German director, Andreas Dresen brings us a gritty drama, loosely based on the novel by Clemence Meyer. As the Cold War ends, a quartet of boys on the cusp of adulthood are enjoying their newfound freedom when they decide to turn an abandoned building into a nightclub. This is soon taken over by neo-Nazi skinheads who threaten violence and disorder. The feel of this brings back memories of Skins; confused adolescence, sexual desires and pure rebellion.

The Beat Beneath My Feet

John Williams takes us on a charming journey into Tom’s existence. Tom is a nerdy, bespectacled teenager who wants to become a rock star. When Max Stone, the supposedly dead guitarist of sensational rock band Nothing moves into his building, he pesters him for music lessons to fulfill his dreams. Typically British, so expect dry humor and quick wit.

Written by Avneet Takhar

Words by Staff
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