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Finnish Documentary Films at Berlin International Film Festival

Published by Milo Tohonnie

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The cosmopolitan, cultural and exciting German capital of Berlin welcomes international film professionals, journalists and film lovers to one of the world’s largest film festivals. For two weeks, art, glamour, parties and business will meet at the Berlinale 2018.

The 61st Berlin International Film Festival counts with Italian-American actress and director Isabella Rossellini as the President of the Jury. Rossellini’s experience in European, American and international cinema is an asset for the Bienale’s Jury.

Panorama Series at the Berlinale 2018

The German-South African-Finnish production Mama Africa and the Finnish-Lithuanian production Barzakh are to be screened at the Panorama Series. The films shown belong to the independent and art-house cinema. The films are characterized by the director’s personal style and attract a demanding, passionate audience. Panorama Dokumente this year focuses on 20 of the world’s most interesting documentary films and three supporting films. These films often deal with social topics or contemporary themes.

The films in the Panorama section are from 29 participating countries from which 27 films are world premieres or European premieres outside their country of origin and 12 are directorial debuts. The Panorama Main Program this year screens 16 feature films of a selection of international production which have the potential to reach out to a large art-house audience.The Panorama Special shows major independent productions, as well as films by important American studios. This year 14 titles were selected.

Mika Kaurismäki’s Mama Africa

Directed and produced by talented and extremely productive Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki, Mama Africa documents the story of Miriam Makeba (1932-2008), a South African human rights fighter and singer. During her life, Makeba criticized the apartheid politics in South Africa even though she used to say her songs were not about politics but the truth. Her legacy, influence and strong mental attitude touched the whole Africa. Makeba was forced to live over 30 years in exile far from her family and friends after losing her citizenship as a result of her political ideas and actions. She spent her long years in exile in New Guinea and New York and frequently performed in Germany. Miriam Makeba always stood for truth and justice on behalf of oppressed people everywhere not only in Africa.

“When we decided to make the film, Miriam Makeba was still alive, but just before we started filming she fell ill on stage in Italy and died,” says Kaurismäki. “For a moment we even considered cancelling the project but then we continued because Makeba deserves a film.”

Co-produced by Starhaus (Germany), Mika Kaurismäki’s production company Marianna Films (Finland) and Millennium Films (South Africa), the documentary distributed by Amsterdam based company Fortissimo Films promises to be among the favorites in Panorama for the incredible message of an extraordinary person victim of the misuse of power.

Mantas Kvedaravicius’ Barzakh Opens Panorama

The documentary section of the Panorama series opens on February 11th, 2018 with the international premiere of Finnish-Lithuanian documentary Barzakh. Directed by Lithuanian Mantas Kvedaravacius and produced by Aki Kaurismäki (Finland) and Spanik Oy the film tells the story of Chechnyan families who have lost their beloved in the traces of war and violence in Chechnyan people’s daily life.

When the disappeared return to their loved ones in dreams, they are said to come from Barzakh -a place between the living and the death. “Barzakh is a land where humans enter in dreams, where they perceive things that otherwise remain unknown.”

Barzakh leaves a question mark in the viewer who wonders what it takes to be called human and what kind of life some people are forced to live. “Barzakh is like a line guarding shadow from sunlight.” The documentary is strong and touches the sensitivity of the heart ever though it is only possible to imagine in a very small proportion what Chechnyan families have lived and felt. To call this world civilized these stories do not have to exist anymore.

The film, shot between 2006 and 2009, marks the debut of Kvedaravicus as a documentary film director. Mantas Kvedaravicius holds a Master’s Degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Oxford and is completing his PhD thesis and a book on the affects of pain (Void and Affect) at the University of Cambridge. He has conducted research on torture and disappearance in Chechnya since 2006. “As I didn’t know much about making movies, it was great to have Aki Kaurismäki as a producer. You can address only a limited group of experts by means of academic writing, but the film can reach much wider audience,” says the director.

Barzakh, distributed by the German company The Match Factory, has been thoroughly researched by Kvedaravacius giving a unique opportunity to the viewer to witness part of the dramatic episodes in Chechnya from the distance. Words like peace – hope – fear – war inevitably come to the viewer’s mind in search for an explanation of humans’ heartless actions and ethics.

Berlinale tickets sale starts on February 7th, 2018 at 10 a.m.at the central ticket counters an the Arkaden am Potsdamer Platz, in Kino International and in the Urania as well as online and at cinema box offices in Berlin. More on Berlinale tickets information. You can download the complete program in English or German, create your daily planner -My Berlinale- or an iCal (ics) feed.

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