This past February, the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival found itself taking place right on the cusp of the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine. In a sobering time, the idea of celebrating films could feel odd to some. However, on February 24, four days after the festival ended, the Berlinale press office released a statement that put things into perspective.
“One week ago, the Berlin International Film Festival was celebrating a complicated yet successful edition. Filmmakers, artists and journalists from all over the world gathered in Berlin to enjoy a collective and joyful experience. The feeling of being together again, with no distinctions of nationality, religion or culture, transported us in a way that film festivals can accomplish,” the message began.
It was an appraisal of the ability of films—and festivals—to bring folks together from all across the globe, championing the importance of empathy and learning from the paths charted by others. The statement ended: “Films cannot change the society and the course of history, but they can help in changing the minds of people. Films are telling us that the world is already in a too-precarious condition to add even more suffering and destruction.”
This year’s Berlinale came at a complicated time, with some films feeling alarmingly prescient. But, in one way or another, heightened times make the best work even more resonant—and in many cases, as our correspondent Alicia Haddick writes on our Festiville HQ, point humanity in the right direction.
With the help, as always, of Letterboxd members in attendance (both online and—hooray!—in-person), our Berlinale team brings you, in no particular order, our ten best premieres from this year’s festival.