‘Limbo’, ‘The Survival of Kindness’ in Berlin competition line-up


Ivan Sen’s Limbo and Rolf de Heer’s The Survival of Kindness will be in the mix for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival next month, the first Australian films to screen in the official competition since 2006’s Candy.

The two films from the Australian auteurs form part of an 18 strong international line-up, with the jury to be overseen by Kristen Stewart.

Both filmmakers have been in Berlin’s official competition before, Sen with Beneath Clouds in 2002, winning the Piper Heidsieck New Talent Award and the Premiere First Movie Award, and de Heer with Alexandra’s Project in 2003.

The festival will serve as the world premiere for Sen’s seventh feature film, Limbo, a neo-western whodunnit starring Simon Baker, Rob Collins, Natasha Wanganeen, and Nicholas Hope.

Produced by Bunya Productions, it follows Travis Hurley (Baker), a detective who arrives in a small outback town to investigate a 20-year-old unsolved murder of a local Aboriginal girl.

Forming bonds with the victim’s fractured family, Travis unravels a series of hard truths, highlighting the complexities of loss and injustice experienced by First Nations Australians.

Known for juggling multiple hats, Sen is not only writer, director, editor, cinematographer and composer on the feature film, but also co-producer alongside Bunya’s David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin, and Rachel Higgins. Elaine Crombie is associate producer.

‘The Survival of Kindness’.

De Heer’s The Survival of Kindness first premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival in October.

It tells the story of BlackWoman (Mwajemi Hussein), who is abandoned in a cage in the middle of the desert. But BlackWoman escapes, journeying through pestilence and persecution, from desert to mountain and finally to city, on a quest for an unknown beginning. 

De Heer is the writer, director and producer via his company Vertigo Productions, alongside producer Julie Byrne of Triptych Pictures. The Survival of Kindness serves as the first HOD credit for a number of First Nations practitioners, including editor Isaac Coen Lindsay, production designer Maya Coombs and sound designer Adam Dixon-Galea.

Berlin’s official competition sees films in contention for the Golden Bear and Silver Bear Awards. Other films in the line-up this year include Matt Johnson’s BlackBerry, Christian Petzold’s Roter Himmel (Afire), Margarethe von Trotta’s Ingeborg Bachmann — Journey into the Desert, John Trengove’s Manodrome, and Philippe Garrel’s The Plough. Six of the 18 films are directed by women, and 11 are from filmmakers who have been at the festival before.

Other Australian projects screening in Berlin in other areas of the program include Jub Clerc’s Sweet As; Danny and Michael Philippou’s Talk to Me; Matchbox Pictures/Stan’s Bad Behaviour; short film Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black), created by Yankunytjatjara artist Derik Lynch and artist Matthew Thorne, and Soda Jerk’s Hello Dankness. There will also be a retrospective screening of Muriel’s Wedding.

In a statement, Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason congratulated all teams.

“It’s a real coup for Australia to have such strong representation across a range of categories at this prestigious festival, including new features, episodic drama, short film, and a retrospective. This is evidence of the wide scope of Australian filmmaking talent and the demand for our diverse stories in the international market,” he said.

Berlin Film Festival runs February 16-26.