Films and Series from Down Under at Berlinale 2020

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for film lovers around town: the 70th edition of the Berlin International Film Festival Berlinale starts today, and films from Australia and New Zealand once again have a strong presence at this highly important film event in Europe. 

If you’re still scrolling through the extensive program of Berlinale not sure what to see – no worries, mate, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a rundown of all films from Down Under screening at the festival from February 20 to March 1.

H Is For Happiness © David Dare Parker

H is for Happiness | John Sheedy | 103' | Australia 2019

Candice Phee has no end of enthusiasm when it comes to making other people happy. From A to Z. Without shying away from subjects such as loss and despair, John Sheedy has skilfully adapted the successful novel “My Life as an Alphabet” for the big screen.

Down Under Berlin regulars probably are familiar with the name of the Australian filmmaker John Sheedy. His heart-warming and colourful short film Mrs McCutcheon won one of the audience awards at the festival in 2018. We’re excited to see John Sheedy return to Berlin with his feature debut – the opening film of the Generation Kplus competition!

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High Ground © Sarah Enticknap/High Ground Picture

High Ground | Stephen Maxwell Johnson | 104' | Australia 2019

High Ground will have its world premiere in the Berlinale Special section.

In 1931, Northern Australia, the destinies of Travis (Simon Baker), a white bounty hunter, and Baywara (Sean Mununggurr), an Indigenous man trying to save what remains of his family, intersect. Twelve years after a tragedy that scarred them both, a manhunt pits them against each other.

Director Stephen Maxwell Johnson, whose debut feature film, Yolngu Boy, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival, has been working on High Ground for 20 years. Inspired by true events, the film stars Aussie actor/filmmaker Simon Baker (Breath, The Mentalist).

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The Assistant © Forensic Films

The Assistant | Kitty Green | 87' | USA 2019

Jane recently landed her dream job as an assistant to a powerful media mogul. She is soon confronted with abusive practices and realises the dark underbelly of the system she has just entered.

Ok, this film doesn't come from Down Under but it’s directed by award-winning Aussie filmmaker Kitty Green whose documentary Casting JonBenet was screened at Berlinale 2017. Celebrated at Sundance and Telluride film festivals and dubbed “the first great #MeToo movie” by Vulture, The Assistant definitely worth a mention on this list!

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If you’re rather the binge-watching series type, Australia has a lot to offer in the Berlinale Series section.

Mystery Road 2 © David Dare Parker

Mystery Road 2 | Ivan Sen, Wayne Blair, Warwick Thornton | 110’ | Australia 2020

A headless corpse is found floating by the shore in a remote outback town. As if this weren’t mysterious enough, Detective Swan and his colleague Fran have to contend with protests against the excavation of an Indigenous site. And then another body turns up.

The spin-off from Ivan Sen's films Mystery Road and Goldstone brings director and cameraman Warwick Thornton – director of Down Under Berlin's 2018 opening feature Sweet Country – to the Berlinale for the fifth time. The festival is screening two episodes of this Western Noir series that features Aaron Pederson reprising his role as Detective Aaron Swan.

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Stateless © Ben King

Stateless | Cate Blanchett, Elise McCredie, Tony Ayres, Emma Freeman, Jocelyn Moorhouse | 107’ | Australia 2019

Escape, disappear, start over. Behind barbed wire in the Australian desert, the world comes together dramatically for four very different people. Is home a place? Or a trauma? What if you’re not even in the position to dream about it?

Famous Australian actress Cate Blanchett created and co-produced Stateless with Elise McCredie and Tony Ayres, and also appears in the series that asks the question: what if people separated by borders are in fact deeply connected by their common desire for a place where they can feel at home?

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Short but sweet - there’s a bunch of Australian and New Zealand short films in Berlinale's Shorts and Generation sections for all of us to enjoy!

Hot Mother © Adam Luxton

Hot Mother | Lucy Knox | 15’ | New Zealand 2020

A mother and her daughter are going through a very stressful time together. They hope that their stay at a spa hotel in the mountains will help relax the situation. But the isolated retreat becomes the setting for a physical and psychological nightmare.

Lucy Knox's short film An Act of Love was part of Down Under Berlin 2019 program.

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Girl and Body © Ella Millard and Charlotte Mars

Girl and Body | Charlotte Mars | 19’ | Australia 2019

In the wake of a frightening collapse, a young dancer is hospitalized and struggles to regain control of her body against a strange force inside. A meditation on the relationship between mind, body, and identity.

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The Flame © Adric Watson

The Flame | Nick Waterman | 12’ | Australia 2020

A poetic exploration of Australian identities. Two Aboriginal youths speak with calm intensity about their ancestors, family solidarity, the traumas experienced in their everyday lives – and about the inner flame shared by all of their people.

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Elders © Moorina Bonini

Elders | Tony Briggs | 10’ | Australia 2019

The elders have gone ahead. He is all alone in the bush, and it is at once scary, exciting and magical. Left to face his fears like so many generations before him, is the young boy ready for the challenge?

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Money Honey © Isaac Knights-Washbourn

Money Honey | Isaac Knights-Washbourn | 10’ | New Zealand 2020

Hank seems kind of down. Red wants to cheer up her friend. With a bit of luck and business savvy, maybe they can manage to scrape together enough money for an Elvis sandwich with peanut butter, banana, and bacon?

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Grevillea © Jordan Giusti

Grevillea | Jordan Giusti | 13’ | Australia 2020

By getting himself tattooed, an incarcerated Jewish teenager violates one of the commandments of his faith. He hopes to find a way out of his loneliness but ends up inflicting deeper wounds.

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And that's it! We hope you'll enjoy the Australian & New Zealand line-up at this year's Berlinale. Down Under Berlin is also working on some treats for you in 2020. Stay informed about our latest news here on our website or on our multiple social media channels.

We'll see you at the movies!

Auste Serapinaite is Lithuanian journalist and filmmaker. After moving to Berlin, she was absorbed by the city's film festival scene and currently moonlights as Co-Director of Down Under Berlin.