BERLIN – The Berlinale opened on Thursday, with French actress Juliette Binoche leading the jury that would decide who receives the Golden and Silver Bear awards at the German capital’s renowned international film festival.
Binoche is a regular at the festival, at which she claimed the Silver Bear for best actress back in 1997 for her role in “The English Patient” by Anthony Minghella, a role that would later see her take the Academy Award for best supporting actress.
“I think it needs to be human, first of all, and if it’s human, it’s political,” Binoche told journalists after being asked how political the 69th edition of the awards were.
“So we’ll use our knowledge, our experience, our minds, our awareness to judge what are the best films that we think are necessary for the present time,” she continued. “I think what feels human is political.”
“The world is quite egotistical at the moment,” she said, giving the examples of “a lot of rich countries are closing their borders” and the urgency of climate change.
“We need to do something” for future generations and governments need to work on these matters more seriously, she said.
Besides presiding the international jury, she also features in “Celle que vous croyez” (Who You Think I Am), a movie in which Binoche plays a woman in her 50s who creates an online persona and pretends to be in her 20s. The movie was not competing in the Berlinale.
Another familiar face on this year’s edition of the jury was Chilean director Sebastian Lelio.
His 2013 movie “Gloria,” about a woman living in the Chilean capital Santiago and her relationship with a naval officer, earned actress Paulina Garcia a Silver Bear for best actress, while his 2017 “Una Mujer Fantastica” (A Fantastic Woman) took the bear for best screenplay.
The festival thrust Lelio onto the international stage and since claiming the bears, he has gone on to pick up other accolades, including an Academy Award in the best foreign language film category for “Una Mujer Fantastica.”
“The death of cinema has been declared many, many times in film history and we all understand that film is not 35, it is not digital, it is language, and as long as it’s spoken and it keeps being expanded, it will be alive,” Lelio said. “I tend to be more integrated than apocalyptic.”
“Things are changing, but I don’t think film is going to die,” said Lelio, “At the same time, I’m a defender of the magical collective experience of watching a film in a theater.”
Completing the jury were United States movie critic Justin Chang, German actress Sandra Hüller, US film curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Rajendra Roy and British actress Trudie Styler.
The jury will have to choose between 17 movies in the running for the bears, seven of which were directed by women, among them Denmark’s Lone Scherfig, with her inaugural movie “The Kindness of Strangers,” Spain’s Isabel Coixet with “Elisa y Marcela” and Poland’s Agnieszka Holland with “Jones.”
It would be Coixet’s ninth time at the festival as a director, the same as her male counterparts François Ozon of France, Turkish-German director Fatih Akin, China’s Zhang Yimou, Wang Quan’an and Wang Xiaoshuai, and Norway’s Hans Petter Moland.
The official selection includes six movies that were not competing for the bears. A total of 400 movies will be shown over the course of the festival.
British actress Charlotte Rampling will be awarded the Honorary Golden Bear for her lifetime achievement.
French actress Catherine Deneuve was set to attend the festival for “L’adieu a la nuit” (Farewell to the Night) by Andre Techine, which was being shown out-of-competition.