From Christian Petzold to Reality Winner, here are 12 must-see films from the 2023 Berlin Film Festival

From Christian Petzold to Reality Winner, here are 12 must-see films from the 2023 Berlin Film Festi ...

The movie year has already unleashed a lot of memorable work, from Sundance breakouts to "M3GAN." However, things are set to become far more global as a new Marvel film launches in theaters around the world on Wednesday, and the Berlin International Film Festival will provide a whole lot more.

The Quiet Girl, a film nominated this year at the Sundance Festival, will be premiered this week, many of which are potential discoveries. Berlin premieres sometimes creep into awards consideration, but can also yield promising new works from emerging filmmaker talent.

You never know what you'll get with Berlin, from its Golden Bear competition to its enticing sidebars like Encounters, making the chance to peruse the lineup even more appealing. Here are a few of the most appealing premieres as the 2019 edition begins.

This article was contributed by Kate Erbland, Jude Dry, and Ryan Lattanzio.

With his latest film to premiere in Berlin, "Afire," Paula Beer (Petzold's closest collaborator since "Transit,") received the Silver Bear for Best Actress. It also stars Thomas Schubert, Langston Uibel, Enno Trebs, and Matthias Brandt.

"The Adults"

Dustin Guy Defa is well-known to festival attendees for his 2017 Sundance film "Person to Person," which tries to connect with an eclectic cast of individuals rather than to splinter them into a convoluted plot. Now Defa has re-teamed with Michael Cera, who directed "Person to Person," to recreate their fragile bonds.

Cera transforms from maniacal card shark and passive-aggressive loner to caring older brother in a tender, finely-tuned performance that ranks among his finest. Defa's subtle approach to dialogue invokes another Eric — French New Wave director Eric Rohmer — as he restores the old pattern of retaliation into a touching and intimate look at family bonds.

"Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker"

Alex Gibney, a prolific documentarian, has built a career out of provocative analysis of American dysfunction (“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” the COVID-focused “Totally Under Control”), as well as insightful portraits of well-known, troubled individuals (“The Armstrong Lie” and "Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine”)

"Boom! Boom!" was released almost 40 years ago; in the following years, his growing financial difficulties forced him to release. The film's aim is to resurrect the early Becker's strength in tandem with the flaws that brought him down. —EK


Focus Featu / Wolfgang Ennenbach

Vasilis Katsoupis' narrative debut, “Inside,” lives and dies in a clever inversion of the survival narrative that also manages to not feel too cloying like all of the COVID lockdown cinema we’ve been introduced to for the past three years. Willem Dafoe is more than up to the task.

The film, set entirely in a super-fancy — and apparently technologically advanced — Manhattan penthouse, chronicles what happens when Dafoe's art thief Nemo is trapped inside the (get it?) house when a theft goes awry. But Dafoe is as enthralling as ever, and his performance is vibrant enough to gloss over some of the film's biggest flaws. KE:

Byun Sung-hyun's South Korean action film "Kill Boksoon" has been brought to the Berlinale by Netflix for the first time this year. She plays a single mother who also happens to be a skilled contract killer.

“#Manhole” is a term used to refer to the street.

From "The Shallows" to "Buried" and "All is Lost," there are a slew of powerful minimalist thrillers about one person being trapped in a difficult situation with no one else around. This year's Berlinale features two new examples: Willem Dafoe as a thief stuck in an apartment with "Inside" (above), as well as "#Manhole," which all takes place within the confines of a manhole.

Kazuyoshi Kamakiri, a Japanese director, has added an adventurous youngster (Yuto Nakajima) to the subgenre, which involves him falling into the same hole as him the night before his wedding. The resulting struggle to get out of the room in time for his ceremony promises a fresh twist on the genre and an acting showcase for Japanese singer and model Nakajima, who is said to single-handedly carry the film on his shoulders for obvious reasons. —

"Manodrome" is a term used by artists.

John Trengove, a Johannesburg filmmaker, investigated a close gay connection in the Eastern Cape mountains of South Africa during an initiation ritual. That 2017 film nearly made it all the way to the Oscars, but it also affirmed the character of an unusual and haunting new queer classic.

Trengove makes his English-language debut with "Manodrome," a thriller starring Jesse Eisenberg, Adrien Brody, and Odessa Young. She later left the project — like "The Wound," an exploration of masculinity — but remained active as a producer. Eisenberg appears to be playing almost entirely against type — at least if his role in "Fleishman Is in Trouble" is any identification of "type."

"She Came to Me."

The Berlinale is held every year.

Rebecca Miller's first film since 2015's underappreciated Greta Gerwig vehicle "Maggie's Plan" is a multi-generational romantic comedy that explores many aspects of love. "She Came to Me" is an original song written by Bruce Springsteen. KE

In "Perpetrator," a surreal feminist horror film from provocateur Jennifer Reeder ("Knives and Skin"), the '90s icon takes a humorous turn as the steely guardian of a mysterious family secret. She's introduced as Jonny (Kiah McKirnan), a scrappy loner who's surviving high school in a town where young women are disappearing.

Reeder's ability to conjure senseless askew worlds that mirror and poke fun at contemporary anxieties is as daring as ever, and a refreshing departure from most male-driven big-budget horror. —JD

The term "Tótem" is a loose translation of the Greek word for "Tótem."

The chambermaid, the film by Mexican director Lila Avilés, was shot in cramped hotel rooms in the summer of 2018, while her latest expansion extends the house only to a single dwelling. The film is said to be both somber and motivating as it depicts a man coming to terms with his mortality. Avilés is expected to be one of the most promising filmmakers to emerge from Latin America in recent years.


Reality Winner's tale is well-documented: In 2017, she was sentenced to over five years in prison for leaking information about Russian interference in the 2016 election to The Intercept. While the 2021 documentary "United States vs. Reality Winner" explored the circumstances that led to Winner's capture (and the excessive punishment she received), playwright Tina Satter made a more detailed analysis for her play "Is This a Room" the same year, using the actual FBI transcripts of Winner's

"Reality" is a fine personal picture focusing on the American justice system's ludicrous chamber piece that will serve as Satter's directorial debut. Sydney Sweeney (perhaps best known for "White Lotus" Season 1) is in a moving role as the woman in question.


Sean Penn, the most surprising person to appear in Russian action in early 2021, was born, and he had been following Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky since he became a worldwide icon of resilience. Obviously, things went in a different direction, and the international community has been obsessed with Zelensky's resolve for the past two years. But Penn and co-director Aaron Kaufman got there before most people, as their cameras captured Zelensky's turbulent transformation into a wartime president.

The documentary promises to remind the world of Zelensky's incredible challenge just as he attempts to do the same thing. —EK