Berlin: Hollywood Takes a Back Seat as Film Fest Focuses on Ukraine, Iran

The Berlin Film Festival, held every year in February, the cruelest month of the German winter, has never been able to match the Mediterranean flair of Cannes or Venice, or the laid-back indie cool of Sundance. But when it comes to serious movies, few festivals, big or small, can match the Berlinale. 

In place of the big blockbuster movies, Berlin has doubled down on political dramas and documentaries that focus on the real troubles of the world. The war in Ukraine — launched by Russia’s invasion a year ago — will be on screens everywhere this Berlinale. Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufmann’s documentary Superpower, shot just before and after Russia’s invasion, and featuring several interviews with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, will have its world premiere in Berlin’s Special Screening section and there are three more Ukraine documentaries — Roman Liubyi’s Iron Butterflies, Vitaly Mansky and Yevhen Titarenko’s doc Eastern Front, Alisa Kovalenko’s We Will Not Fade Away, and Piotr Pawlus and Tomasz Wolski’s In Ukraine — screening in Berlin’s Panorama, Encounters, Generation and Forum sidebars, respectively. Plus, a dramatic treatment of the war and issues in Ukraine can be found in Tonia Noyabrova’s Panorama entry Do You Love Me?

The festival is wearing its politics on its sleeve, literally, this year, reissuing the traditional Berlinale lapel bin in the Ukraine national colors of yellow and blue to “provide widespread visibility for the cause among Berlinale attendees, accredited industry guests and Berlinale film guests.” Festival merchandising this year will also include a magnetic Berlinale bear designed by Ukrainian artists in the country’s typical Petrykivka painting style.

The political unrest in Iran, which has seen months of anti-government protests, will also be front-and-center at this year’s festival, with several documentaries, among them Mehran Tamadon’s My Worst Enemy featuring Holy Spider actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi, and Sreemoyee Singh’s And, Towards Happy Alleys, which includes interviews with imprisoned dissident director Jafar Panahi. In a show of solidarity with Ukraine and with Iranian protesters, Berlin this year has banned all companies, journalists or film delegations with direct ties to the Iranian or Russian governments from attending the festival. 

Politics of one kind of another will be everywhere at this year’s Berlinale, from Guy Nattiv’s biopic Golda, starring Helen Mirren as the former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, to Rolf de Heer’s The Survival of Kindness, a look at Australia’s legacy of racism and the oppression of its aboriginal population. 

It’s perhaps telling that what passes for star-studded Hollywood titles are Todd Field’s TÁR and Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans: two of the most serious films to come out of major studios last year and both of which will be screening out of competition in Berlin next month. 

Some might complain that the 2023 Berlinale lineup lacks star power or pizzazz, but no one would call it lightweight. 

Here’s a full list of the films screening at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, organized by section.

Opening Night Film (Out of Competition)

She Came to Me, dir. Rebecca Miller USA 2023 World Premiere


20,000 Species of Bees, dir. Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren, Spain 2023 World Premiere

Afire, dir. Christian Petzold Germany 2023 World Premiere

Bad Living, dir. João Canijo Portugal / France 2023 World Premiere

BlackBerry, dir Matt Johnson Canada 2023 World Premiere 

Disco Boy, dir Giacomo Abbruzzese France / Italy / Poland / Belgium 2023 World Premiere

Ingeborg Bachmann – Journey into the Desert, dir. Margarethe von Trotta Germany / Switzerland / Austria / Luxembourg 2023 World Premiere

Limbo, dir. Ivan Sen Australia 2023 World Premiere

Manodrome, dir. John Trengove USA 2022 World Premiere 

Music, dir. Angela Schanelec Germany / France / Serbia 2023 World Premiere

On the Adamant, dir. Nicolas Philibert France / Japan 2022 World Premiere Documentary 

Past Lives, dir. Celine Song USA 2022 International Premiere 

Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything, dir. Emily Atef Germany 2023 World Premiere

Suzume, dir. Makoto Shinkai Japan 2022 International Premiere Animation 

The Plough, dir. Philippe Garrel France / Switzerland 2022 World Premiere

The Shadowless Tower, dir. Zhang Lu, People’s Republic of China 2022 World Premiere

The Survival of Kindness, dir. Rolf de Heer International Premiere

Till the End of the Night, dir. Christoph Hochhäusler Germany 2023 World Premiere

Tótem, dir. Lila Avilés Mexico / Denmark / France 2023 World Premiere 


Golda, dir. Guy Nattiv United Kingdom 2022 World Premiere 

Infinity Pool, dir. Brandon Cronenberg Canada 2022 European Premiere

Kill Boksoon, dir. Byun Sung-hyun South Korea 2023 World Premiere 

Kiss the Future, dir. Nenad Cicin-Sain, USA / Ireland 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

Loriot’s Great Cartoon Revue, dir. Peter Geyer Germany 2023 World Premiere Animation 

Last Night of Amore, dir. Andrea Di Stefano Italy 2022 World Premiere

#Manhole, dir. Kazuyoshi Kumakiri Japan 2023 International Premiere 

Massimo Troisi: Somebody Down There Likes Me, dir. Mario Martone Italy 2023, World Premiere

Ming On Mad Fate, dir. Soi Cheang Hong Kong, China 2022 World Premiere

Seneca – On the Creation of Earthquakes, dir. Robert Schwentke Germany / Morocco 2022

World Premiere

Sun and Concrete, dir. David Wnendt Germany 2023 World Premiere

Superpower, dirs. Sean Penn, Aaron Kaufman USA 2022 World Premiere Documentary 

Talk to Me, dirs. Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou Australia 2022 European Premiere 

TÁR, dir. Todd Field USA 2022 German Premiere

Untitled Boris Becker Documentary, dir. Alex Gibney United Kingdom / USA 2023 World Premiere


Absence, dir. Wu Lang People’s Republic of China 2023 World Premiere 

Der vermessene Mensch, dir. Lars Krause, Germany 2022 World Premiere

Eastern Front, dirs. Vitaly Mansky, Yevhen Titarenko Latvia / Czechia / Ukraine / USA 2023

World Premiere Documentary 

Family Time, dir. Tia Kouvo Finland / Sweden 2023 World Premiere 

Here, dir. Bas Devos Belgium 2023 World Premiere 

In the Blind Spot, dir. Ayşe Polat Germany 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

In Water, dir. Hong Sangsoo South Korea 2023 World Premiere 

Living Bad, dir. João Canijo Portugal / France 2023 World Premiere 

My Worst Enemy, dir. Mehran Tamadon France / Switzerland 2023 World Premiere Documentary

Orlando, My Political Biography, dir. Paul B. Preciado France 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

Samsara, dir. Lois Patiño Spain 2023 World Premiere 

The Cage is Looking for a Bird, dir. Malika Musaeva France / Russian Federation 2023 World Premiere 

The Echo, dir. Tatiana Huezo Mexico / Germany 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

The Klezmer Project, dirs. Leandro Koch, Paloma Schachmann Argentina / Austria 2023 World Premiere 

The Adults, dir. Dustin Guy Defa USA 2023 World Premiere 

The Walls of Bergamo, dir. Stefano Savona Italy 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

White Plastic Sky, dirs. Tibor Bánóczki, Sarolta Szabó Hungary / Slovakia 2023 World Premiere Animation 


After, dir. Anthony Lapia France 2023 World Premiere 

All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White, dir. Babatunde Apalowo Nigeria 2023 World Premiere

Ambush, dir. Chhatrapal Ninawe India 2023 World Premiere 

And, Towards Happy Alleys, dir. Sreemoyee Singh India 2023 World Premiere Documentary

Do You Love Me?, dir. Tonia Noyabrova Ukraine / Sweden 2023 World Premiere

Drifter, dir. Hannes Hirsch Germany 2023 World Premiere

Femme, dirs. Sam H. Freeman, Ng Choon Ping United Kingdom 2023 World Premiere 

Green Night, dir. Han Shuai Hong Kong, China 2023 World Premiere 

Hello Dankness, dir. Soda Jerk Australia 2022 World Premiere

Heroic, dir. David Zonana Mexico / Sweden 2023 European Premiere 

Inside, dir. Vasilis Katsoupis Greece / Germany / Belgium 2023 World Premiere

Iron Butterflies, dir. Roman Liubyi Ukraine / Germany 2023 World Premiere Documentary

Joan Baez I Am A Noise, dirs. Karen O’Connor, Miri Navasky, Maeve O’Boyle USA 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

Kokomo City, dir. D. Smith USA 2023 International Premiere Documentary 

Matria, dir. Álvaro Gago Spain 2023 World Premiere 

Midwives, dir. Léa Fehner France 2023 World Premiere 

Opponent, dir. Milad Alami Sweden 2023 World Premiere 

Passages, dir. Ira Sachs, France 2023 International Premiere

Perpetrator, dir. Jennifer Reeder USA 2023 World Premiere 

Property, dir. Daniel Bandeira Brazil 2022 International Premiere 

Reality, dir. Tina Satter USA 2023 World Premiere

Silver Haze, dir. Sacha Polak, Netherlands/United Kingdom 2023 World Premiere

Sira, dir. Apolline Traoré Burkina Faso / France / Germany / Senegal 2023 World Premiere

Sisi & I, dir. Frauke Finsterwalder Germany / Switzerland / Austria 2023 World Premiere

Stams, dir. Bernhard Braunstein Austria 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

Transfariana, dir. Joris Lachaise, France/Columbia 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

The Beast in the Jungle, dir. Patric Chiha France / Belgium / Austria 2023 World Premiere 

The Burdened, dir. Amr Gamal Yemen / Sudan / Saudi Arabia 2023 World Premiere

The Castle, dir. Martín Benchimol Argentina / France 2023 World Premiere

The Cemetery of Cinema, dir. hierno Souleymane Diallo France / Senegal / Guinea / Saudi Arabia 2023 World Premiere Documentary

The Eternal Memory, dir. Maite Alberdi European Premiere Documentary

The Siren, dir. Sepideh Farsi France / Germany / Luxembourg / Belgium 2023 World Premiere Animation

The Quiet Migration, dir. Malene Choi Denmark 2023 World Premiere

The Teachers’ Lounge, dir. İlker Çatak Germany 2023 World Premiere 

Under the Sky of Damascus, dirs. Heba Khaled, Talal Derki, Ali Wajeeh Denmark / Germany / USA / Syria 2023 World Premiere Documentary 


Adolfo, dir. Sofía Auza USA / Mexico 2023 World Premiere

A Greyhound of a Girl, dir. Enzo d’Alò Luxembourg / Italy / Ireland / United Kingdom / Estonia / Latvia / Germany 2023, World Premiere Animation

Almamula, dir. Juan Sebastian Torales France / Argentina / Italy 2023 World Premiere

And the King Said, What a Fantastic Machine, dirs. Axel Danielson, Maximilien Van Aertryck Sweden / Denmark 2023 European Premiere Documentary 

Autobio-Pamphlet, dir. Ashish Avinash Bende India 2023 World Premiere

Dancing Queen, dir. Aurora Gossé Norway 2023 World Premiere

Deep Sea, dir. Tian Xiaopeng People’s Republic of China 2023 International Premiere Animation

Delegation, dir. Asaf Saban Poland / Israel / Germany 2023 World Premiere

Dreams’ Gate, dir. Negin Ahmadi Iran / Norway / France 2023 World Premiere Documentary

Hummingbirds, dirs. Silvia Del Carmen Castaños, Estefanía “Beba” Contreras USA 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

I Woke Up With a Dream, dir. Pablo Solarz Argentina / Uruguay 2022 International Premiere 

Just Super, dir. Rasmus A. Sivertsen Norway 2022 International Premiere Animation

Kiddo, dir. Zara Dwinger Netherlands 2023 World Premiere 

Longing for the World, dir. Jenna Hasse Switzerland 2023 World Premiere

Mimi (She – Hero), dir. Mira Fornay Slovakia 2023 World Premiere 

Mutt, dir. Vuk Lungulov-Klotz USA 2023 International Premiere 

Ramona, dir. Victoria Linares Villegas Dominican Republic 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

Sea Sparkle, dir. Domien Huyghe Belgium / Netherlands 2023 World Premiere 

Sica, dir. Carla Subirana Spain 2023 World Premiere

Sweet As, dir. Jub Clerc Australia 2022 European Premiere

The Lost Boys, dir. Zeno Graton Belgium / France 2023 World Premiere

The Properties of Metals, dir. Antonio Bigini Italy 2023 World Premiere

Tomorrow is a Long Time, dir. Jow Zhi Wei Singapore / Taiwan / France / Portugal 2023 World Premiere

We Will Not Fade Away, dir. Alisa Kovalenko Ukraine / France / Poland 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

When Will It Be Again Like It Never Was Before, dir. Sonja Heiss Germany 2023 World Premiere


About Thirty, dir. Martín Shanly Argentina 2023 World Premiere 

A Golden Life, dir. Boubacar Sangaré Burkina Faso / Benin / France 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

Allensworth, dir. James Benning USA 2022 International Premiere Documentary 

Anqa, dir. Helin Çelik Austria / Spain 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

Being in a Place – A Portrait of Margaret Tait, dir. Luke Fowler United Kingdom 2022 International Premiere Documentary 

Between Revolutions, dir. Vlad Petri Romania / Croatia / Qatar / Iran 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

Calls from Moscow, dir. Luís Alejandro Yero Cuba / Germany / Norway 2023 World Premiere Documentary

Cidade Rabat, dir. Susana Nobre Portugal / France 2023 World Premiere 

De Facto, dir. Selma Doborac Austria / Germany 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

Forms of Forgetting, dir. Burak Çevik Turkey 2023 World Premiere 

In Ukraine, dirs. Piotr Pawlus, Tomasz Wolski Poland 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

Leaving and Staying, dir. Volker Koepp Germany 2023 World Premiere Documentary

Mammallia, dir. Sebastian Mihăilescu Romania / Poland / Germany 2023 World Premiere

Notes from Eremocene, dir. Viera Čákanyová Slovakia / Czech Republic World Premiere

Our Body, dir. Claire Simon France 2023 World Premiere Documentary 

Regardless of Us, dir. Yoo Heong-jun South Korea 2023 World Premiere 

Remembering Every Night, dir. Yui Kiyohara Japan 2022 International Premiere 

The Intrusion, dirs. Flora Dias, Juruna Mallon Brazil / France 2023 World Premiere 

The Bride, dir. Myriam U. Birara Rwanda 2023 World Premiere 

The Face of the Jellyfish, dir. Melisa Liebenthal Argentina 2022 International Premiere 

The Temple Woods Gang, dir. Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche France 2022 International Premiere 

There Is a Stone, dir. Tatsunari Ota Japan 2022 International Premiere 

The Trial, dir. Ulises de la Orden Argentina / Italy / France / Norway 2023 World Premiere Documentary

This is the End, dir. Vincent Dieutre France 2023 World Premiere Documentary

Where God Is Not, dir. Mehran Tamadon France / Switzerland 2023 World Premiere Documentary 


The Swarm (Out of Competition) Germany / Belgium 2023 World Premiere Broadcasters: ZDF, France Télévisions, Rai, Viaplay Group, Hulu Japan, ORF, SRF

Agent Denmark 2023 World Premiere | Broadcaster: TV2

Bad Behaviour, Australia 2023 International Premiere Broadcaster: Stan 

Roar, India 2023 World Premiere Broadcaster: Amazon Prime

Spy/Master, Romania / Germany 2023 World Premiere Broadcaster: HBO Max

The Architect Norway 2023 World Premiere Broadcaster: Viaplay Group

The Good Mothers, United Kingdom / Italy 2023 World Premiere Broadcaster: Disney+ 

Why Try to Change Me Now, People’s Republic of China 2023 International Premiere Broadcaster: iQIYI

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