// By T.J. Fackelman //
Jonathan and I arrived in Berlin for the 60th Annual Berlinale this morning around 10am, after a full day of travel narrowly skirting blizzards (including the flight to Berlin from JFK with nearly the entire NYC independent film industry, including actor Ben Foster, who's on the Jury this year). For those of you who don't know, Jonathan has been returning to the Berlinale year after year, but this is my first time (and it's my first time crossing the Atlantic since a trip to Ireland back in '97). Needless to say, I've been looking forward to this for years.
After leaving the airport, the first thing I noticed was the ice. Sure, we get a ton of snow in Milwaukee, so I'm used to it, but I didn't expect several layers of uneven ice layering every single walking surface. (It seems they put gravel down on the ice, but certainly no salt.) Jonathan and I even have a standing bet to see which of us will be the first to land face-first on Berlin ice. Keep an eye on this blog and you'll see who wins and who loses.
Getting past the weather, Berlin is an incredible city. The architecture of the buildings and the layout of the streets themselves creates an awesome blend between the old and the very new. Well, more about the city in the next few days as I see and learn more...
We are here for the MOVIES!
The thing is, with a festival of this size, it takes far more than two individuals to cover everything, but we are going to try our hardest, which means we'll be at completely different movies at all times. With that, here are a few of the highlights we're each looking forward to.
The film I'm probably most excited to see is Sylvain Chomet's THE ILLUSIONIST. Chomet was the creator of the incomparable animated tale THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE (I'm still peeved that FINDING NEMO took its Oscar for Best Animated film in 2004.) I've been waiting for years to see his follow-up.
Next up was my most-wanted-to-see-at-Sundance. Well, I didn't get to see it there, but it was an eleventh hour addition to the Berlinale lineup: EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP. It's a documentary by the equally legendary and mysterious UK graffiti artist Banksy. Sundance described it as such, "Banksy turns the tables on the only man who has ever filmed him, creating a remarkable documentary that is part personal journey and part an exposé of the art world with its mind-altering mix of hot air and hype."
I also can't wait to see MAMMUTH, the new comedy from Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern, who made the film AALTRA, possibly one of the greatest laugh out loud dark comedies ever. The pair make a perfect team behind and in front of the camera, creating brilliantly bleak comedy out of the everyday.
Jonathan, the Berlinale vet., has several films on tap. First up is WINTER'S BONE, one of the Sundance Award Winners he wasn't able to catch amongst the hundreds of others in Park City last month. After seeing a poster while walking around Berlin, Jonathan mentioned how interested he is in seeing Thomas Vinterberg's latest film SUBMARINO. Vinterberg was the co-founder of the influential Dogme 95 film movement. He's also been talking up another award winning director, Jasmila Zbanic (who won the Golden Bear two years ago here with her debut film Grbavica).
Stay tuned to the Milwaukee Film blog to hear more about the films and our adventures in Germany. And start placing your bets on who falls first. Odds are on me as the new guy, but I'm going to make sure that doesn't happen.