10 Must-See Films About the Struggles of Youth

Berlin is the city for the young. By keeping things relatively cheap and highly creative, it is a magnet for slightly crazy millennials who have nothing to lose. Therefore it makes sense for the Berlin Film Festival to give back to its many young immigrants from the rest of Germany and the world by showcasing films about their travails. Ever since the quintessential indie youth film The 400 Blows was released in 1959, films about youth have been primarily about struggle. Whether it’s with identity, loving the wrong person or being born in the wrong town, films about young people either give us inspiration or remind us how we used to be. Here are the ten must-see youth films we are most looking forward to premiering at the Berlinale.


My Wonderful West Berlin. Photo by Wilfried Laule

My Wonderful West Berlin

Section: Panorama

This documentary from Jochen Hick looks at how queer people lived in Berlin from 1960-80 when official emancipation hadn’t come into place yet. Always known as a queer haven — attracting luminaries such as Peaches and David Bowie — the movie will likely be an ode to the city that never sleeps.

Loving Lorna. Photo by Kate McCullough

Loving Lorna

Section: Generation

Set outside Dublin — a place known for its horses, sometimes even seen roaming around the city streets — lives Lorna, a young girl who dreams of being a farrier. This documentary, directed by Swedish duo Annika and Jessika Karlsson, follows her as she tries to realise her plans.

Freak Show. Photo by Andrew Cooper

Freak Show

Section: Generation

Inspired by cross-dressing trailblazers such as David Bowie and Oscar Wilde, Billy plans to defy his conventional school by campaigning for homecoming queen. Features cameos from luminaries including Bette Midler, Laverne Cox, Larry Pine and Ian Nelson.


Don’t Swallow My Heart. Courtesy Of Sundance

Don’t Swallow My Heart, Alligator Girl!

Section: Generation

Romeo and Juliet shows its timelessness as it is updated for another day. Here, the action is transposed against the Brazil/Paraguayan border in order to stress the bittersweet relationship between adolescents Joca and Guaraní. Like in the original 1968 film, the actors are also all non-professionals.

Shkola nomer 3. Directed by Yelizaveta Smith, Georg Genoux

School Number 3

Section: Generation

This documentary sees directors Yelizaveta Smith and Georg Genoux take to a school in South Ukraine to see how children live in the midst of wartime. Shot with a strong ascetic style, this film promises to be a haunting document made more precious by its timeliness.


Mountain Miracle — An Unexpected Friendship. Photo by Martin Rattini

Mountain Miracle – An Unexpected Friendship

Section: Generation

The potty-mouthed Amelie runs away from a clinic in South Tirol only for her blessed freedom to be compromised by an unwanted fellow traveller. Not only must she brave the mountains, she has to brave the possibility of falling in love too!


Upp i det blå/ Up in the Sky Courtesy of P-A Jörgensen © Memfis Film

Up in the Sky

Section: Generation

This oddball offering from Sweden features an 8-year-old girl who gets waylaid on the way to summer camp and ends up in a scrapyard instead. With the residents plotting the construction of a spaceship, this film promises to be as heartfelt as it is strange.

Dark Blue Girl. Photo by Fabian Gamper

Dark Blue Girl

Section: Perspective Deutsches Kino

This film looks to turn the “child-whose-parents-are-divorcing” genre on its head. The seven-year-old Luca doesn’t give into despair, instead deviously scheming in order to become the only girl in her fathers life.


Millenials. Photo by Florian Mag


Section: Perspective Deutsches Kino

With previous films such as Berlin Alexanderplatz, The Blue Angel and Wings Of Desire to its name, Berlin has always been a place of cinematic inspiration. The debut feature from Baden-Württemberg film school alumni Jana Bürgelin sees two young artists trying to make it there. With such a title and setting, this film may be the quintessential 21st century tale of  life in the German capital.

Back for Good. Photo by Kim Riedle

Back for Good

The graduate film from Mia Spengler, Back For Good looks at the family dynamic between a former child TV star, her overbearing mother and her tempestuous sister. Taking place in the backwater town they grew up in, the film promises a lot of strong drama as each character has to reevaluate their life.




Julie (1994) by Rineke Dijkstra. Image from artytart.com
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