Berlin's Best Festival is in December - Around the World in 14 Films
by Alex Billington
December 12, 2022
There's a wonderful little festival that takes place in Berlin, Germany every December – called Around the World in 14 Films. Aside from the catchy name of the festival, it's now my favorite festival in Berlin. The historic Berlin Film Festival (aka "Berlinale") has unfortunately dropped off the charts in terms of quality, relevance, and (dis)organization; they no longer hold the top spot nor do they screen that many good films anymore. Around the World in 14 Films, on the other hand, screens the best films of the year and does so at some of the best cinema venues in the city. They even bring in filmmakers for Q&As, the films are all shown in their original versions (with English subtitles), and the tickets are impressively affordable (at 10€ each). I'm lucky to live just down the street from one of the main venues, the Kulturbrauerei, and visited the fest this year to watch three films - two of them for my second time because they're both in my Top 10 of 2022.
The "Around the World in 14 Films" festival (stop by their official website) is self-described as "The Berlin Festival of Festivals" - they bring in the best films from the Cannes, Locarno, Venice, San Sebastian, and Toronto Film Festivals, which run earlier in the year. The title refers to their original format, in which they choose 14 different films from different countries around the world. This year's ambitious line-up features a grand total of 28 films, naturally doubling up from their usual selection. This is totally fine by me because their 2022 selection really is comprised of the year's best films, most of which haven't shown up in Berlin until this point in the year (Germany runs very late on releasing most indie films). I also listened to the Q&A with Belgian filmmakers Felix Van Groeningen & Charlotte Vandermeersch this year after their screening of The Eight Mountains - which I have been raving about since its world premiere in Cannes. The crowds are always friendly & interested. There isn't much marketing, so most show up because they want to see these.
Just take a look at the 2022 line-up: Mia Hansen-Løve's latest One Fine Morning (trailer) with Léa Seydoux, Alice Diop's Venice hit Saint Omer (trailer), Jafar Panahi's acclaimed new film No Bears, Riley Keough and Gina Gammell's Native American drama War Pony fresh from Cannes, Palestinian director Maha Haj's film Mediterranean Fever, Iranian director Ali Behrad's film Imagine, Lola Quivoron's fantastic motorbike girl film Rodeo (review), Sophie Linnenbaum's fascinating thriller The Ordinaries (review), everyone's beloved donkey movie EO (trailer) made by director Jerzy Skolimowski, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's latest R.M.N. (trailer), Albert Serra's Cannes hit Pacifiction (trailer), festival favorites The Banshees of Inisherin (trailer) and Final Cut of the Dead (trailer), plus two of the best Korean films this year - Park Chan-wook's Decision to Leave (trailer) and Hirokazu Koreeda's Broker (trailer) with Song Kang-Ho. With an exceptional line-up of films like this, you might as well wait for December to catch all of the best of the fest in one week.
My two favorites from 2022 that I went to see for a second time were Godland, the Icelandic feature from director Hlynur Pálmason. This first premiered in Cannes, but I didn't catch up with until Karlovy Vary (my full review). It's a breathtaking, mesmerizing film about a stubborn Danish priest who travels to Iceland but is overwhelmed by the harshness of the land. It's one of these films that simply must be seen on the big screen to properly take in and be immersed by the stunning cinematography. I loved it even more a second time around. Best dog performance in any film this year? I think so. The other one that left me in tears is The Eight Mountains (Le Otto Montagne), an Italian drama made by Belgian filmmakers about two boys who grow up in the mountains. We follow them over the course of 30 years of their lives, each taking a different path in life, but reconnecting later in their 30s. It was my second time watching this and I was so affected by the end I stayed up way too late listening to the music in the film and reading about mountains.
I'm lucky I had the opportunity to catch these two favorites again on the big screen in a cinema not far from where I live in Berlin. I'm also lucky that this festival takes place every year and continues to program some of the best film from around the world. Around the World in 14 Films was celebrating their 17th year in 2022, but it seems they're gaining prominence year after year. It's not easy to get all these films confirmed for your festival. I also took my partner to see Koreeda's Broker, which she hadn't seen yet. Both of us liked it but didn't love it; it's not as powerful or as endearing as Koreeda's other beloved films before this. If only I had more time, I probably would've ended up going out to watch more. It doesn't matter if I've seen them at other fests before, some of these films are so good the second viewing can be even more stirring. Watching these films more than once allows me to drift even deeper into a cinema trance, getting lost in the stories, pulled into the screen, forgetting I'm even at a festival. This is what I live for, this is why still I love movies.
The 2022 edition of Around the World in 14 Films is already over – it ran from December 1st - 10th this fall. However, they'll be back again next year, with the best of 2023's festival offerings to bring to audiences. If you live in Berlin, or if you just so happen to be in/around Berlin in December next year, make sure you check out their line-up and schedule and catch a film or two or three (or four or five??). You can't go wrong with anything from their selection. Berlin is a city known for its arts and culture, and there are tons of film festivals happening throughout the year in the city. But this is the top festival with the finest films - and I recommend it to anyone and everyone that loves to discover and revel in cinema from around the world. I look forward to discovering their 2023 line-up and revisiting more favorites, but until then, thank you to the entire festival team for putting on a terrific event this year. For more info & festival details, visit 14films.de.
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