Austrian cinema looks set to make another big splash at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. The diverse lineup is certain to springboard to fests around the globe, where Austrian film continues to represent an increasingly broad range of up-and-coming talent and works by veteran filmmakers.
A dozen Austrian works are unspooling at this year’s Berlinale, from such genre pics as Alpine Western “The Dark Valley” (pictured) from established helmer Andreas Prochaska to the competition selection “Macondo,” Sudabeh Mortezai’s debut feature about an immigrant family in Vienna, and “Cracks in the Concrete,” by Umut Dag (“Kuma”), about an ex-convict trying to keep a son he doesn’t know from making the same mistakes he made.
“It’s really quite amazing,” says Austrian Film Commission managing director Martin Schweighofer, pointing out that Austrian pics will be unspooling “from competition to Forum, Berlinale Special, Panorama, Panorama Special, shorts — it’s quite an avalanche.”
Schweighofer says the selection of “Macondo” in particular was unexpected. He describes Mortezai’s drama as a very small, very tender, very sensitive kind of film about an 11-year-old Chechen boy growing up in a housing settlement in Vienna known as Macondo, home to hundreds of refugee families. “It’s a very promising and heart-warming film. I was hopeful to see the film surface but I was very surprised when they called to say it was going to be in competition.”
In addition, the Berlinale Special sidebar will unspool “We Come as Friends,” Hubert Sauper’s documentary about war-ravaged South Sudan. It will be one of a number of Austrian pics showing in both Berlin and Sundance.
Austrian filmmaker Feo Aladag (“When We Leave”) is also in competition, albeit with a German production, “Zwischen welten” (Inbetween Worlds), an Afghanistan-set drama that centers on the friendship between a German soldier and an interpreter.
Austria enjoyed plenty of hits last year, some of them out of the blue such as Michael Haneke’s French-language “Amour,” which went on to win the Oscar and Golden Globe for foreign-language film and take in $19 million in the global box office — a healthy take for an arthouse pic. Works from young filmmakers also won international recognition. Daniel Hoesl’s social drama “Soldate Jeannette” (Soldier Jane) picked up the Rotterdam Tiger Award, while Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel’s “Der glanz des tages” (The Shine of Day), about a promising stage actor who loses himself in his work, nabbed the Max Ophuels Prize in Saarbruecken; Marvin Kren thrilled international auds with his horror tale “Blutgletscher” (The Station), which unspooled at Toronto; and Ulrich Seidl’s provocative “Paradise” trilogy continued to intrigue viewers as it screened in more than 100 festivals around the globe.
Looking beyond Berlin, other upcoming Austrian pics sure to pique critical and commercial interest include Michael Sturminger’s English-language “The Giacomo Variations,” starring John Malkovich as himself playing Casanova in a theatrical production, and Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s thriller “Ich sehe/Ich sehe” (I Spy/I Spy), about two young brothers who begin to doubt the woman who returned from cosmetic surgery is actually their mother.
Also coming later this year is “Amour Fou,” by Jessica Hausner (“Lourdes”), a story inspired by the life of German poet Heinrich von Kleist; Barbara Eder’s “Good Morning Kabul,” which also puts Afghanistan in focus, following three international news correspondents in the country; and Peter Brunner’s recent Rotterdam screener “My Blind Heart,” about a man suffering from a genetic disorder who not only struggles with but also loudly protests his condition.
Schweighofer says what he’s seen so far makes him very confident that this will be another “strong year and it all starts with this bang in Berlin.”