Political themes in an “emotionally whiplashed time” are set to dominate the Berlin film festival, which opened on Thursday, February 16, 2023, as the Berlinale returns in full force following two years of pandemic restrictions.
Almost 400 films are scheduled to be shown from February 16-26, with a high level of expression of support anticipated for the people of Ukraine and Iran amid continuing war and turmoil there.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former actor, is due to address the festival’s opening in a live video stream on Thursday evening.
US actress Kristen Stewart, famous for “Spencer” and “Twilight,” heads this year’s international jury.
“I was shocked that they called me … it wasn’t my decision to be here,” Stewart said at a press conference ahead of the ceremonial opening at 7:30 pm (1830 GMT). “It’s an enormous opportunity to have a hand in highlighting beautiful things in a time where that’s hard to hold,” the 32-year-old said.
“That’s an opportunity that I obviously couldn’t say no to.”
The festival is significant as it comes in an “emotionally whiplashed time,” she said, adding, “I think it’s the job of an artist to take a disgusting and ugly thing and sort of transmute it and put it through your body and pump out something more beautiful and more helpful.”
Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, who is also on the jury, raised the demonstrations in her own country during the press conference.
Her home country was a “dictatorship,” she said, where people lacked “oxygen” to breathe.
The curtain-raiser of the Berlinale 2023 is the comedy “She Came to Me” by director Rebecca Miller, starring Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei and Anne Hathaway.
Hollywood star Sean Penn is due to personally present his film “Superpower” on the opening night.
A total of 19 films are competing for the coveted Golden and Silver Bear awards at the 73rd edition of the festival, including six directed by women.
“The Berlinale is returning in full force,” said city Mayor Franziska Giffey, referring to the lack of pandemic restrictions this year.
Along with Cannes and Venice, the Berlinale is one of the world’s major film festivals.