Berlin Film Festival 2016: 8 films that you should know about from Midnight Special to War on Everyone

Berlinale is set to premiere the films you'll still be talking about this time next year

When and where is Berlin Film Festival held?

Named Berlinale, the annual festival unsurprisingly takes place in the German capital of Berlin; the festival runs from 11-21 February.

When did it all begin?

Berlinale was founded in 1951, meaning this will be its 66th year. Despite this, it has only been celebrated annually since 1978.  

Why should I take an interest in it?

Berlinale is the largest publicly attended film festival in the world. Although it lies in the shadow of France's Cannes, it still consistently showcases the most anticipated films of the coming year as well as those unheralded gems that go on to become awards favourites (high points have recently included The Grand Budapest Hotel and 45 Years). The Coen Brothers' Hail, Caesar! - released in the UK on 4 March - is opening this year's festival.

What's the main prize?

The Golden Bear is Berlinale's highest award, a bear being the animal featured on the German capital's flag. The winner is chosen by an international jury - this year presided by Meryl Streep. Past recipients of the top prize include A Separation, Spirited Away and Magnolia. Last year's winner was Iranian film Taxi Tehran .

What films should I watch out for?

War On Everyone

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The latest black comedy from John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, Calvary) stars Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña as two corrupt New Mexico cops who blackmail the wrong criminal. War on Everyone marks McDonagh's first film away from Ireland and sans Brendan Gleeson.

Zero Days

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Alex Gibney's extraordinary repertoire is set to broaden with Zero Days, a documentary focusing on Stuxnet - a self-replicating computer virus, deemed the world's first 'digital weapon,' developed by the US and Israel to sabotage Iran's nuclear programme. As ever, we're sure Gibney's documentary will educate audiences on an unfamiliar subject without it feeling like a chore in any way.

Midnight Special

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One of the industry's most interesting directors, Jeff Nichols (Mud) has two films in this year's programme. While Loving, a drama about a landmark interracial marriage, looks to be a treat, it's Midnight Special you should have on your radar; reuniting with Take Shelter's Michael Shannon, this "sci-fi chase film" follows a father who goes on the run with his son whose extrasensory powers have made him a governmental target. Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst and Joel Edgerton co-star.

Things to Come

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If you haven't yet seen Eden - Mia Hansen-Løve's beguiling odyssey into the world of EDM - check it out immediately; you'll instantly be excited about Things to Come, a drama detailing the life crisis of a philosophy teacher left alone when her husband leaves her and her children move out. Promises to be an indie favourite.

The Commune

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Thomas Vinterberg - a pioneer of the Dogme 95 filmmaking movement - has a back catalogue comprising of challengingly brilliant films (Festen, The Hunt) - The Commune looks to continue in the same vein. Based on his own play (and life), the story takes place in a Seventies Danish commune fit with personal clashes between desire and solidarity. Think a more intense version of Lukas Moodyson's Together.

Genius

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A biographical drama following the world's most famous literary editor from the writer of 12 Years a Slave (John Logan) is reason enough to add Genius to your list of must-sees. Delving into the life of Max Perkins - who edited Hemingway and Fitzgerald novels - the film stars Colin Firth alongside an ensemble that includes Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Laura Linney.   

Alone in Berlin

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This adaptation of Hans Fallada's war novel - which shot to prominence sixty years after publication - pairs Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson as a married German couple who partake in subtle acts of Nazi resistance. The underrated Daniel Brühl (Rush) stars as the Gestapo officer sniffing around. 

Shepherds and Butchers

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After starring and co-writing Philomena, Steve Coogan goes fully serious with his role in Shepherds and Butchers. He plays John Weber, a lawyer who agrees to defend a prison guard guilty of killing seven men in apartheid-stricken South Africa - what begins as a challenging case segues into a historical charge against the actual death penalty. Andrea Riseborough (Birdman) co-stars in what could well be one of the most affecting films on this year's programme.

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