Berlinale 2023 | Films Exploring Sustainability, Environment, War and Conflict




Berlinale, The 73rd Berlin International Film Festival, will start today, 16th February, showing over 400 films from different genres. Here, we explore the great selection of films focusing on the themes of sustainability and the environment as well as those exploring the current political climate of Iran and Ukraine. 

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Between the 16th and 23rd of February 2023, the 73rd international film festival, Berlinale, is set to take place in Berlin, Germany. At the festival, over 400 films from different genres will be shown in multiple venues around the city, including eighteen films which will compete for the Golden and Silver Bears. Fifteen of these eighteen films will be world premieres and six have been directed by women. This competition category is the most anticipated of the festival and provides a competition space for films from all genres including documentary, animation, comedy and drama. Of the films competing for this prize is one focused on environmental destruction : Disco Boy by Giacomo Abbruzzese. This drama follows a character's struggle against the oil companies threatening his village and the lives of his family in the Niger Delta. 



Each year, the festival makes improvements to become more sustainable and to become more inline with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Simple changes have been made, including banning single use plastic cups from being used and using cleaning products that are unharmful to the environment. This year, there has been a collaboration between the festival and Deutsche Bahn which will provide sustainable, electric powered travel to and from the festival. This theme of sustainability is something that runs deep in the festival, providing a selection of films focused on the environments and the climate. A few are….. 


‘White Plastic Sky’ is an animated film, set in a post-apocalyptic world, that will make its World Premiere at Berlinale this year.  The film, which will be shown in the Encounters category at the festival, follows the journey of a couple living in a new Budapest in the year 2121 where there is no animal or plant life. 


‘The Swarm’ is an ecological thriller series exploring  the connection between the environment and mankind. The series will also make its World Premiere at Berlinale.


This short film is an appeal for the world to take responsibility for the capitalism and colonialism that has caused much environmental destruction in Africa. In the trailer, birds and people can be seen standing amongst piles of rubbish and plastic, highlighting the extent of the problem. 


Drawing from archive footage of the 1952 London smog, this short film encourages the audience to consider smog in the context of the current climate emergency. The short film is narrated by a character from the post apocalyptic future, blending elements of documentary and science fiction together.  


This World Premiere documentary explores a future that is not yet here, where technology has taken over the world. The film mixes photographs and super 8 footage of our present day, showing climate activists, beaches and people wearing masks in public, with artificially produced graphics of the future world. 




Berlinale have openly condemned the injustices taking place in both Ukraine and Iran and have planned a number of activities such as talks, panels and demonstrations during the festival to show solidarity and bring attention to the countries. On the 24th of February, there will be a demonstration of solidarity with Ukraine on the red carpet at Berlinale Palast and on the 18th there will be a panel discussion led by Shila Behjat on the role of film and art in the Iranian revolution. In addition to these activities, the festival has provided a space for films focusing on the conflicts. A few are…. 


‘Eastern Front’ is a documentary showing the two sides of a nation fighting for survival. The documentary provides glimpses into life on the front line, where they encounter people on the verge of death, as well as life visiting family, when on leave from duty, that makes it all seem distant.  


Originally a film exploring the interesting career path of the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, the film took a turn in February 2022 when Russia invaded the country. ‘Superpower’ became not only a profile of the president but also a documentary following the development of the war in Ukraine and a documentation of the truth behind the invasion. 


This film is a filmmaker's attempt to understand the side that goes against his own values by putting himself in the place of the interrogated in hopes to break down the ideological walls. 


‘It's a date’ is a five minute short film, filmed in one unedited shot, capturing the emotions felt during a state of emergency caused by war. The film shows a subjective perspective, shot out of the front window of a car as it speeds through the city at sunrise creating an eerie and uncomfortable atmosphere. 


‘And, Towards Happy’ is Sreemoyee Singh’s debut film and is inspired by Iranian cinema. The film explores the lives of women and citizens of Iran and how the law limits their rights to expression. It also delves into the lives of two filmmakers (Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Shirvani) who are battling with the censorship of Iranian cinema. 


Tickets for the festival are on sale now and more information about the event can be found on the Berlinale website. 



+  Words:
Emily Nicholas
Luxiders Magazine