Berlinale Panorama 2021: Between Doubt and Revolt – A Critical Look at Power Relations

The cinematic gazes of strong female directors, critical new cinema from the Middle East, as well as Indigenous and queer narratives

“2021 is characterised by combative, political cinema. The cinematic gazes of strong female directors, critical new cinema from the Middle East, as well as Indigenous and queer narratives are setting clear focal points in the Panorama,” comments section head Michael Stütz. “The filmmakers are taking a stand with their observations, reflecting on individual conflicts and collective trauma while also questioning political and interpersonal power relations and challenging others to respond.”

Invited is the new film by French director Damien Odoul, Théo et les métamorphoses (Theo and the Metamorphosis), as well as the Turkish drama Okul Tıraşı (Brother’s Keeper) by Ferit Karahan about the difficult daily lives of Kurdish students at a boarding school in the uplands of Anatolia. A highlight for horror fans will be Prano Bailey-Bond’s debut Censor, which has already been widely acclaimed in the media.

New German Films

German cinema is taking a look into the past with Monika Treut’s Genderation in which the director travels to the USA to seek out the transgender pioneers and activists who initially appeared in her film Gendernauts. Now, 20 years after the earlier film premiered in Panorama and received a TEDDY AWARD, Genderation not only traces altered life plans but also paints an incisive portrait of the United States at the end of the Trump era.
In Die Welt wird eine andere sein (Copilot), Anne Zohra Berrached, who took part in the Berlinale Competition with 24 Weeks, explores the story of the young student Asli, who finds herself caught between her desire to assert herself, please her traditional family and her self-sacrificing love for Saeed.
Henrika Kull returns with a character study in her second outing in PanoramaGlück (Bliss) tells the story of Maria and Sascha, two sex workers who meet and fall in love on the job. An oft-misrepresented trade is portrayed here with ease and precision, its characters are depicted with depth, credibility and great authenticity.

Identity and Self-Discovery in Cinema From the Middle East

The Middle East is particularly well represented this year with four young directors from Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. In Souad, Egyptian director Ayten Amin explores the tension between internalised social constraints and personal self-realisation. In Miguel’s War, on the other hand, we accompany a gay man who fled from war and repression in Lebanon to the hedonistic Madrid of the post-Franco era. 37 years later, Miguel returns with director Eliane Raheb to face his inner conflicts. In George Peter Barbari’s directorial debut, Death of a Virgin, and the Sin of Not Living, a group of young Lebanese men travel to visit a sex worker for their first sexual encounter in a film which deconstructs a global masculine rite of passage. In Mishehu Yohav Mishehui (All Eyes Off Me), director Hadas Ben Aroya explores in captivating images the boundaries between desire and vulnerability.

Facets of Resistance: Indigenous Cinema From Canada and Brazil

A critical look at colonial practices and the urgency of resistance marks another focus in the 2021 Panorama’s selection. In Night Raiders, Canadian director Danis Goulet creates a feminist-dystopian First Nations fable which tells the story of the collective struggle against a fascist military regime. In the hybrid work A Última Floresta (The Last Forest) we are invited into the daily lives and creation myths of the Yanomami in the Amazonas, as director Luiz Bolognesi illustrates their struggle to preserve their habitat and their traditions.

Documentary Observations

The 2021 documentaries provide first person narratives, character studies and fictional reflections on documentary filmmaking. After a long absence, Angelo Madsen Minax returns to his family in the American hinterland. North By Current follows a family reconciliation after a tragic loss and reflects on Minax’s transgender masculinity. Produced by Roberto Minervini, Carlos Alfonso Corral’s Dirty Feathers depicts the hardships and hopes of his homeless protagonists who live on the streets of the border towns of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. His film is an emphatic portrait of parents-to-be, daughters and veterans as they struggle for survival on the margins of society. In the Japanese fiction film Yuko No Tenbin (A Balance), Yujiro Harumoto addresses the fine balancing act that exists in documentary filmmaking between real and cinematic truths and asks whether it is permissible to play one off against the other.

During the virtual EFM in early March, panels and discussions curated by Panorama and the TEDDY AWARD team will be streamed live daily for the industry and the public on the TEDDY’s website (

The films in this year’s Panorama selection defy simple categorisation. The stories they share with us, their audience, have the power to unite us. In June, our city will once again become the physical venue for the Berlinale and the cinema will be a place of encounter and discussion. We look forward to seeing you then!

The Panorama Films

*World premiere is used to indicate that these films have not been shown to an audience yet. Since they will be available in online screenings to a professional audience (industry and press) only, they will keep their status World premiere until they will be presented publicly in cinemas or at festivals.

United Kingdom
by Prano Bailey-Bond
with Niamh Algar, Michael Smiley, Nicholas Burns, Vincent Franklin, Sophia La Porta, Adrian Schiller
Debut film

Viewing a horror movie awakens film censor Enid’s trauma about the disappearance of her sister. She decides to track down the film and its director and begins a quest in which the boundaries between fiction and reality begin to blur.

Death of a Virgin, and the Sin of Not Living
by George Peter Barbari
with Etienne Assal, Adnan Khabbaz, Jean Paul Frangieh, Elias Saad, Feyrouz Abi Hassan, Souraya Baghdadi
*World premiere / Debut film

A group of friends pool their money to pay for their first sex. Their journey to see a sex worker is accompanied by boastful teenage conversations, but also sensitive inner monologues. A painful collision between poetry and social reality.

Dirty Feathers
USA / Mexico
by Carlos Alfonso Corral
*World premiere / Debut film / Panorama Dokumente

On the streets of border towns El Paso and Ciudad Juárez we meet people living without a home. In intimate, unbiased black-and-white images, the film captures their everyday lives on the streets, as well as their hopes and their faith.

by Monika Treut
*World premiere / Panorama Dokumente

20 years after Gendernauts, Monika Treut seeks out the pioneers of the transgender movement back then to find out how their lives and their activism have evolved, how they have grown into their identities and how their energy continues to have an impact today.

Glück (Bliss)
by Henrika Kull
with Katharina Behrens, Adam Hoya, Nele Kayenberg, Jean-Luc Bubert
*World premiere

Two sex workers meet in a Berlin brothel. In a place where the female body is a commodity, they experience moments of happiness. A feisty love story about attraction, fears and self-determination.

Kelti (Celts)
by Milica Tomović
with Dubravka Kovjanić, Stefan Trifunović, Katarina Dimić, Anja Đorđević
*World premiere / Debut film

Belgrade in 1993. The pent-up tension of uncertain times is released at a children’s birthday party. While the kids celebrate in the living room dressed up as Ninja Turtles, the adults discuss, flirt, smoke and drink in the kitchen.

Der menschliche Faktor (Human Factors)
Germany / Italy / Denmark
by Ronny Trocker
with Mark Waschke, Sabine Timoteo, Jule Hermann, Wanja Valentin Kube

Jan accepts an assignment for a political campaign without consulting Nina, who is both his wife and partner in their agency. Their family holiday is overshadowed by a mysterious break-in. A psychological portrait of a family, told from different perspectives.

Miguel's War
Lebanon / Germany / Spain
by Eliane Raheb
*World premiere / Panorama Dokumente

A portrait of a gay man who confronts the ghosts of his past. After fleeing war and repression 37 years ago, Miguel returns to Lebanon where he traces hidden longings, unrequited love and tormenting feelings of guilt.

Mishehu Yohav Mishehu (All Eyes Off Me)
by Hadas Ben Aroya
with Elisheva Weil, Yoav Hait, Leib Lev Levin, Hadar Katz
*World premiere

Danny is pregnant by Max who is busy trying out Avishag’s sexual fantasies with her. She wants him to hit her when they have sex. Avishag takes her bruises to Dror, whose dog she sits. A generational portrait that asks: how liberated are we really?

Le monde après nous (The World After Us)
by Louda Ben Salah-Cazanas
with Aurélien Gabrielli, Louise Chevillotte, Saadia Bentaïeb, Jacques Nolot
*World premiere / Debut film

When penniless young writer Labidi meets Elisa he knows she’s the one for him. But Paris is expensive. A captivating film that combines the classic themes of French New Wave cinema with questions about roots, familiarity and distance.

Night Raiders
Canada / New Zealand
by Danis Goulet
with Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Alex Tarrant, Amanda Plummer
*World premiere / Debut film

In a dystopian future, children are considered property of the military regime which trains them to fight in a state boarding school. A Cree woman tries to get her daughter back. A parable about the situation of the First Nations, seen from a female perspective.

North By Current
by Angelo Madsen Minax
*World premiere / Panorama Dokumente

The unexplained death of his niece leads the director back to his family. His investigation of injustice and the arbitrariness of officialdom turns into cathartic family therapy. A personal essay about motherhood, grieving and transgender masculinity.

Okul Tıraşı (Brother's Keeper)
Turkey / Romania
by Ferit Karahan
with Samet Yıldız, Ekin Koç, Mahir İpek, Melih Selçuk, Cansu Fırıncı, Nurullah Alaca
*World premiere

A finely spun drama set in the microcosm of an authoritarian boarding school in the Anatolian mountains. One winter’s day reveals the failure of this powerful educational institution to which twelve-year-old Yusuf and his friend are helplessly exposed.

Egypt / Tunisia / Germany
by Ayten Amin
with Bassant Ahmed, Basmala Elghaiesh, Hussein Ghanem
*World premiere

Egyptian Souad, 19, has several identities: one on social media, others as a diligent student and an obedient daughter. When Souad’s ideas of a self-determined life are shattered, her younger sister sets out to look for answers.

Ted K
by Tony Stone
with Sharlto Copley
*World premiere

Ted K takes a radical approach to addressing Unabomber Ted Kaczynski’s way of thinking. Using intense images and texts from Kaczynski’s pamphlets, the result is no conventional biopic but a meditative composition – and an emotional exploration of violence.

Théo et les métamorphoses (Theo and the Metamorphosis)
by Damien Odoul
with Théo Kermel, Pierre Meunier, Élia Sulem, Louise Morin, Ayumi Roux
*World premiere

Théo, a 27-year-old with Down’s syndrome, lives in seclusion in the forest with his father. Every day he trains his body to become a samurai. One day his father goes away and Théo is alone with his world of thoughts. He decides to start a new life.

A Última Floresta (The Last Forest)
by Luiz Bolognesi
*World premiere / Panorama Dokumente

In powerful images, alternating between documentary observation and staged sequences, and dense soundscapes, Luiz Bolognesi documents the Indigenous community of the Yanomami and depicts their threatened natural environment in the Amazon rainforest.

Die Welt wird eine andere sein (Copilot)
Germany / France
by Anne Zohra Berrached
with Canan Kir, Roger Azar, Özay Fecht, Jana Julia Roth, Ceci Chuh, Nicolas Chaoui
*World premiere

Asli and Saeed fall in love in the mid-1990s. Although Asli’s mother is against their relationship, they secretly get married. Then he disappears. A sensitive love story that recounts how Saeed changes Asli’s life – before the entire world is shaken.

Yuko No Tenbin (A Balance)
by Yujiro Harumoto
with Kumi Takiuchi, Ken Mitsuishi, Masahiro Umeda, Yuumi Kawai

In her new documentary, Yuko wants to tell the true story behind the scandal of a relationship between a female student and her teacher. When she learns about her own father’s affair with one of his students, she has to rethink her principles.