BERLINALE 2014: DAY ONE AND TWO

This entry was posted on February 9th, 2014

By José Sarmiento Hinojosa

Great expectations coming from the Berlinale, as the Palast (and more than 20 venues), opens the red carpet to the most expected films, premiering in more than ten different categories of the festival. The big names are already checking in: Clooney, Wes Anderson, Von Trier, Schlöndorff, Resnais, and many others, while the rumors start travelling around the streets of Potsdamer Platz: words on the poorly directed The Monuments Men (by Clooney) are in clear contrast with some festival revelations, like Yann Demange’s 71. As days go by, special events like a musicalized version of Dr. Caligari Cabinet (by John Zorn himself) and a Jack Smith retrospective presented by Ken and Flo Jacobs, keep the expectations high and the spirits up.

The Last Hijack – Tommy Pallotta, Femke Wolting (Somalia, 81’) (PANORAMA)

There is ambition in these filmmakers to do a film of universal cinematic language (they merge animation, documentary and fiction), in a story about two men (Mohammed and Muse) becoming pirates in a brutal and excruciating reality (the one of their country). Sadly, the treatment of the visual information of Pallotta (a former cinematographer) and Wolting (a former producer) seems a little forced and too overwhelming to be considered insightful.

The documentary parts however, could’ve worked by themselves as an intimate portrait of how does life in Somalia leads human beings to become pariahs of a society which forces them into the seas to hijack ships, but if the metaphor fits, the film capsizes due to a confused treatment of genres. There are a lot of questions in The Last Hijack, and way too many answers: metaphors, interviews, acting, etc. One misses the simplicity and mastery of films like João Rui Guerra da Mata and João Pedro Rodrigues’ Last Time I Saw Macao, where genres blur each other with amazing dexterity.

52 Tuesdays – Sophie Hyde (Australia, 109’) (GENERATION)

With a full venue (the magnificent Haus der Kulturen der Welt theater), the Crystal Bear had one of its first runs with this tale of youthful independence, and gender transition by Australian filmmaker Sophie Hyde. The film is divided in 52 sections, corresponding to the 52 Tuesdays than Billie (a 16 old girl) has to wait for her mother to become a man. In this path, we see the growth of independence of old Billie, while mother, with difficulties changing her gender, also carries along the difficulties of raising a child in such manner.

52 Tuesdays comes as a film with good intentions and sympathy for the subject matter, and it’s even quite interesting in its depiction of the passing of days along important events around the world (something that is properly just hinted in the section openings but then openly talked about, which ruins the purpose a little bit), but the dramatic pulse of the Hyde doesn’t seem to carry enough weight to make a solid film, something that could have been (given the subject matter) way more powerful. A small point in favor for the construction of the documentary takes by Billie, which somehow gives this film a sense of closeness.