Lone Scherfig’s “The Kindness of Strangers” will open the 69th edition of the Berlin Film Festival. The Danish director’s ensemble drama, starring Zoe Kazan, Andrea Riseborough and Bill Nighy among others, follows a group of people trying to survive a New York winter.
It will open the Berlinale on Feb. 7, 2019. Scherfig is a regular in Berlin: Her film “The Birthday Trip” played there in 1990 and “On Our Own” in 1998. “Italian For Beginners” won the Silver Bear in 2001, and “An Education,” with Carey Mulligan, screened at the 2009 Berlinale before going on to receive three Academy Award nominations.
“How lovely that Lone Scherfig is back and that her most recent work will open the 2019 Berlinale,” said Dieter Kosslick, director of the Berlinale. “Her feel for characters, strong emotions and subtle humor promises a wonderful start to the festival.” It marks the last time Kosslick will head the team selecting the opening film as he is stepping down from the position he has held since 2001.
“I am truly honored that Dieter Kosslick has selected our film to celebrate such a festive and important evening,” said Scherfig. “It will be a great joy to watch it for the first time alongside the renowned Berlinale audience.”
“The Kindness of Strangers” was written by Scherfig herself. Other cast members include Tahar Rahim, Caleb Landry Jones and Jay Baruchel.
The film is set in a Russian restaurant in New York. Kazan plays Clara, a mother with an abusive cop husband, and Riseborough is Alice, an ER nurse who runs a therapy group. Rahim is Marc, the restaurant manager, Landry Jones is Jeff, a young guy looking for a job, and Baruchel plays John, a lawyer with self-esteem issues. Nighy is Timofey, the restaurant owner.
The restaurant serves as “a crossroad as our characters flow in and out of each other’s lives, discovering that their liberation and hopes ultimately lie in each other’s hands,” according to a press statement about the film. “In a time of growing insecurity and little mercy, the smallest coincidences and kindness can turn into the most surprising of outcomes.”
The movie is an English-language Denmark-Canada co-production with Sweden, France and Germany, and was filmed in Toronto, Copenhagen and New York. HanWay Films is handling worldwide sales and distribution rights, backed by Ingenious Media and Apollo Media.