• Festivals

Berlinale 2023: A Festival of Politics and Solidarity

The Berlin International Film Festival, also known as the Berlinale, is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious film festivals. It has gained a reputation for being the most political of the leading film festivals owing to its origins as a divided city on the front lines of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West. This year, its 73rd, the festival is no different, focusing on issues of politics and solidarity.

The Berlinale kicked off on February 16, 2023, with a festive opening ceremony at the Berlinale Palast. This year’s jury president, Kristen Stewart, joined the festival executives, Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, to mark its beginning.

The other members of the international jury are actress Golshifteh Farahani (Iran/France), director and writer Valeska Grisebach (Germany), director and screenwriter Radu Jude (Romania), casting director and producer Francine Maisler (U.S.), director and screenwriter Carla Simón (Spain), and director and producer Johnnie To (Hong Kong, China).

A total of eighteen films, hailing from 19 different countries, will contend for the prestigious Golden and Silver Bears. According to the official Festival website, 15 will have their world premieres, while female directors will helm six. Additionally, the program will feature three debut films vying for recognition.

The festival, known for its political edge, is paying particular attention to the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Iran. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made a digital appearance at the opening ceremony. He thanked the festival for its solidarity with the people of Ukraine and expressed his appreciation for the platform it provides for filmmakers. Zelenskiy, whose experiences on the first days of the invasion a year ago are the subject of a Sean Penn documentary, Superpower, urged filmmakers to take a stand and not remain neutral in the face of conflict, saying “Art could choose to take sides or remain neutral, which equals to backing tyranny.”

The festival also stands with the courageous protesters in Iran as they defend themselves against a violent, undemocratic regime. Iranian/ French actress Farahani was brought to tears by a standing ovation from the audience after her heartbreaking speech about the situation in Iran. “For breaking this wall, we need all of you,” she said. “This wall is a wall of oppression. This regime lies and executes; this regime puts innocent people in prison. The prisons of Iran are full of innocent people.”

The opening film, Rebecca Miller’s She Came to Me, is a world premiere and was screened at Berlinale Special Gala directly following the opening ceremony. The director and her film team, including Anne Hathaway, Marisa Tomei, Peter Dinklage, Joanna Kulig, Evan Ellison, Damon Cardasis, Pamela Koffler, and Christine Vachon, introduced the film in the Berlinale Palast.


The festival paid homage to US-American director, producer, and screenwriter Steven Spielberg, presenting him with an Honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement. His most recent work, The Fabelmans, will be screened at the festival.

With 287 selected films across the festival’s various sections, the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival promises to be a celebration of cinema that highlights the power of film to tell stories, foster understanding, and inspire change.

Among the new projects, the establishment of the Berlinale Series and the groundbreaking Berlinale Series Award mark a significant shift in the entertainment industry. As the first A-class festival to recognize the growing importance of serial storytelling and the many exciting artistic and formal developments taking place in this field, the Berlinale Series signals a new era in which series productions are considered on par with film productions in terms of creativity, budget, and talent.