Suzume no Tojimari Suzume no Tojimari

Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume will be the first anime title to screen in Berlin’s main competition since Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away won the Golden Bear back in 2002.

Written and directed by Shinkai, Suzume is about a teenage girl on a desperate quest to close Doors of Disaster located all around Japan. Suzume is accompanied on her journey by a boy who has been magically transformed into a chair.

The film is currently enjoying an incredible theatrical run domestically and now ranks as the 24th-highest-grossing film in Japanese box office history. Released in November of 2022, it was number two at the Japanese box office over the past weekend, its 10th in theaters. Its North American theatrical run kicks off on April 14, with Crunchyroll handling distribution.

Iranian filmmaker Sepideh Farsi’s long-gestating animated feature The Siren holds the distinction of opening this year’s Panorama section at the Berlinale. The screening will also mark the film’s world premiere.

Farsi is a France-based filmmaker with extensive experience in live-action, but The Siren is his animation feature debut. The film is a France-Germany-Luxemburg co-production between Special Touch and Bac Films.

Set in Abadan in 1980, the film begins as the oil capital of Iran is found under Iraqi siege. There, 14-year-old Omid stays with his grandfather after failing to enlist for military service. While waiting for his older brother to return from the frontlines, Omid meets several strangers and learns their reasons for staying in a seemingly doomed town. As the violence increases, Omid begins fixing up an old traditional ship, a lanj, to sail away from danger and save those whom he loves.

The Berlinale Special section will host Loriot’s Great Cartoon Review and 100 Years of Disney Animation – a Shorts Celebration, a collection of classic Disney animated shorts.

This year’s Berlinale shorts section also hosts a trio of animated titles, Morten Tšinakov and Lucija Mrzljak’s Eeva, Stephen Vuillemin’s A Kinds of Testament, and Volker Schlecht’s The Waiting.

  • Eeva heads to the Berlinale after premiering at Tallinn Black Nights back in November. The film is a 2d animated short from Estonia and Croatia that takes place at a rainy funeral where its titular protagonist endures the saddest day of her life after suddenly becoming a widow. It’s produced by Draško Ivezić (Adriatic Animation), alongside Kalev Tamm from the Estonian studio Eesti Joonisfilm. Filmmakers Morten Tšinakov and Lucija Mrzljak previously impressed with their films A Demonstration of Brilliance in Four Acts (2015) and The Stork (2018).
  • A Kind of Testament is a French production that will celebrate its world premiere in Berlin. Helmed by Gobelins graduate Stephen Vuillemin, the short turns on a young woman who finds internet animations that were clearly made using her private selfies and tracks down the person trying to steal her identity.
  • The Waiting is the latest from German filmmaker Volker Shlect, whose animated documentary Kaputt screened at the Berlinale back in 2016. The filmmaker will be back in Berlin with another doc, this time about frogs in Costa Rica that inexplicably disappear. Volker Schlecht & MobyDOK produce.

One animated feature made it into the Berlinale’s Encounters section, Tibor Bánóczki and Sarolta Szabó’s Hungarian film White Plastic Sky. Making its world premiere in Berlin, the film is a dystopian eco-fantasy set in a future Budapest devoid of wildlife. It combines 2d and 3d animation, harnessing rotoscoping; the artwork we’ve seen is atmospheric.

As has traditionally been the case, Berlin’s Generation Kplus section has several animated titles as part of its lineup.

  • Aaaah! – This French animated short by Osman Cerfon is produced by Miyu Productions and highlights all the joys and terrors shared by kids on a playground.
  • A fully restored version of Disney’s 1950 classic Cinderella will screen as part of Disney’s 100th anniversary.
  • Czech short Dede is Dead by Philippe Kastner examines the hole left behind and the grief suffered after the loss of a pet dog.
  • Anne-Sophie Gousset and Clément Céard’s French short To Be Sisters is the story of two young sisters and how the dynamics of their relationship shift over time. Folimage produces.
  • Christer Wahlberg and Sebastian Rudolph Jensen’s Swedish short George Peterland is world premiering in the section. In the film, five friends invent a magical chicken forest where they can escape the boring adults in their lives.
  • Based on Roddy Doyle’s book of the same name, the feature A Greyhound of a Girl is directed by Enzo d´Alo and tells the coming-of-age story of Mary, an 11-year-old who dreams of becoming a chef. Aliante, Jam Media, GOAG Productions, Rija Films, and Amrion produce. Another world premiere.
  • Norwegian feature Just Super is the story of a superhero’s daughter who will do anything to convince the world that she’s capable of following in his footsteps. Rasmus A. Siversten directs and Qvisten Animation produces.
  • China’s Deep Sea is one of the most exciting-looking features coming in 2023, and will get its international premiere in the section. Directed by Monkey King helmer Tian Xiaopeng, the cg animated feature follows a young girl thrust into a once-in-a-lifetime journey set in a new and mysterious underwater world.
  • Sonja Rohleder’s German short Somni is another of Berlin’s world premieres. Unspooling in a vibrant dream world, the film plays out like a colorful lullaby featuring a sleeping monkey.
  • An Vrombaut’s Spin & Ella is a Belgian short unspooling in a spiderweb where Ella the fairy and her spider friend begin to quarrel, creating a big mess.
  • Domonkos Erhardt is world premiering their Hungarian short From the Corner of My Eyes, about a chance encounter on a late-night bus and featuring an aesthetic that emulates expressionist woodcuts.
  • Swiss world premiere Pound is a short about a fish that gets lost in a tidal pool and, through the magic of a fart, finds a community in the new environment. Lena von Döhren and Eva Rust direct.

This year’s Berlinale takes place in the German capital February 16-26.

Pictured at top: Suzume