The 73rd Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival, which opens this year on February 16 and runs through February 26, is putting movies with Jewish and Israeli content front and center – a tradition of its programming for the past few decades.
The festival’s guest of honor, who will be awarded an honorary Golden Bear (the bear is the symbol of this festival and of the city), is the most celebrated Jewish director in the world, Steven Spielberg. In addition to a ceremony honoring Spielberg at the Berlinale Palast, the festival’s main venue, there will be a retrospective of his films.
As part of the award ceremony at the Berlinale Palast, Spielberg’s latest movie, The Fabelmans, will be shown. The Fabelmans, currently playing in the US and Israel, is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story that is a major contender in this year’s Oscars. The movie will be released in German theaters in March.
Spielberg’s career has spanned 55 years and he is known for many of the most popular and entertaining movies ever made. A number of his classic films will be shown, and this is a rare chance to see his movies as they were meant to be seen, on the big screen.
Several of his early, crowd-pleasing and suspenseful movies will be shown, among them Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. His first full-length film, Duel, about a driver on a deserted road harassed by a mysterious trucker, was originally a television movie, but it will be shown in a Berlin theater.
In addition, Spielberg made a number of movies that deal with German history, which will be shown as well: Schindler’s List, the Oscar-winning movie that tells the true story of a German industrialist who saved Jews from the Nazis during World War II; Munich, about a team of assassins who avenged the killing of the Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympic Games in 1972; and Bridge of Spies, in which Tom Hanks plays an American who arranged a spy swap involving a Russian caught in New York for several prisoners held in East Berlin in the 1960s.
“With an incredible career, Steven Spielberg has not only enchanted generations of viewers all over the world, but has also given a new meaning to the ‘cinema’ as the factory of dreams. Be it in the everlasting magic world of teenagers or in the reality that history has carved forever, his movies take us to a different level, where the big screen becomes the adequate surface for our emotions to be fulfilled.”Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian
“With an incredible career, Steven Spielberg has not only enchanted generations of viewers all over the world, but has also given a new meaning to the ‘cinema’ as the factory of dreams. Be it in the everlasting magic world of teenagers or in the reality that history has carved forever, his movies take us to a different level, where the big screen becomes the adequate surface for our emotions to be fulfilled,” the Berlinale executive director Mariette Rissenbeek and artistic director Carlo Chatrian said in a statement.
“If Berlinale 2023 represents a new beginning, we couldn’t find a better start than the one offered by Spielberg’s great work.”
What films will be shown at the Berlinale?
THE OPENING movie of the festival, She Came to Me, is the latest film by Rebecca Miller, whose father was playwright Arthur Miller. The movie is a comedy-drama about a composer suffering from writer’s block (Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones), who gets his groove back after a one-night stand. The cast also includes Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) and Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny). Miller’s 2016 comedy, Maggie’s Plan, was shown in the Panorama section of the Berlinale.
Another highlight of the festival will be Guy Nattiv’s Golda Meir biopic, Golda, which is having its world premiere at the Berlinale. Nattiv won an Oscar for the short film Skin, which he wrote with Sharon Maymon. He cast the celebrated British actress, Helen Mirren, to portray Golda. Mirren previously won an Oscar for her portrayal of another world leader, Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen.
The movie focuses on a critical moment in Meir’s life, when she was coping with the sudden outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. The movie also stars Liev Schreiber as Henry Kissinger and Lior Askenazi as IDF chief of staff David “Dado” Elazar.
Asaf Saban’s Delegation will be shown in the Generation 14Plus section. The movie is a drama about a group of Israeli high school students on a trip to Poland to visit Holocaust memorial sites. A coming-of-age story, it stars Yoav Bavly, Neomi Harari, Alma Dishy, Leib Lev Levin and Ezra Dagan.
Saban said, “The Delegation is about a strange and special experience, which I went through myself as a teenager, and which is shared by so many people who grew up and were educated in this country. I’m very excited that the trip to Poland of this delegation is expected to start soon and [the film will] meet the audience.
“The fact that this is going to happen in Berlin makes this journey between the past and the present particularly complex and exciting.” Delegation is an Israeli/Polish/German co-production and will compete for the Crystal Bear Prize.
There will be a special focus on the cinema of Iran and the crisis in that country, sponsored by the World Cinema Fund, which will spotlight the plight of Iranian directors who have been imprisoned recently for their political views. There will also be a program devoted to Ukrainian cinema and the ongoing Russian invasion of that country. A number of panels and special events will draw attention to the current crises in these two countries.
While there are no Israeli movies in the Main Competition this year, as recently as 2019, Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms won the Golden Bear, the festival’s top prize, in the final year that Dieter Kosslick was the festival’s director.
Other Israeli movies that have won prizes in the past at the Berlinale include Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort, which won the Silver Bear, while the documentary by Chris Marker, Description of a Struggle (aka The Third Side of a Coin), a look at modern Israel, won the Golden Bear in 1960, and was the only movie produced by Jerusalem Cinematheque founder Lia van Leer, with her husband, Wim van Leer.