Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley sit in a bus that travels between sand dunes, through a checkpoint and into a warehouse surrounded by high fences.
A uniformed man explains that the conversation they came for is being watched by cameras and that all documents exchanged must first be read by the censorship.
You will be taken to a cell.
Your interlocutor is already sitting there.
He is tied to a ring in the concrete floor with an anklet.
Welcome to the first confidential conversation between a Guantánamo prisoner and his lawyers.
The scene comes from the beginning of the film “The Mauritanian”, which is listed in the Berlinale's program as an attraction in the “Special” section.
It is only the third film in ten years that Foster appears.
The case of the Mauritanian Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was imprisoned by the Bush and Obama administrations for 15 years without evidence or charge as a “9/11” suspect, is an important film for Jodie Foster.
Nevertheless, it is one of the "ghost films" of the 71st Film Festival, a phenomenon that is on lists but is nowhere to be seen.
Tahar Rahim and Jodie Foster in "The Mauritanian"
The possibilities are very limited anyway.
The general public is locked out due to the Corona and could (with luck) catch up on the film at the promised Summer Berlinale.
However, it is also not visible to the market participants who are haggling over films online this week.
Nor can it be seen by the few hundred critics who have a password to stream Berlinale films.
On the other hand, "The Mauritanian" is not a secret project.
It has already been shown in cinemas in the US, available as a stream in the UK, but not in many other countries.
The Foster film is simply an expression of the utter disorder into which the cinema industry has gotten due to Corona and the rise of streamers.
Afraid of the digital
There are even more Berlinale attractions that just buzz around as ghosts.
“Best Sellers”, for example, in which Michael Caine goes on a reading tour as a grumpy writer.
Or the black comedy "French Exit" with Michelle Pfeiffer.
Or Dominik Graf's Kästner film adaptation “Fabian”, which was only shown to a few critics outside of the Berlinale.
Or the film in which a blasé actor who lives in a loft in Prenzlauer Berg briefly goes to his local pub before he wants to board the plane for the casting in London.
At lunchtime there are not many people in “Zur Brust”, the landlady, a skilful complainer - and a late fifty man at the counter whom he does not know.
But who seems to know the life of the star in every detail, better than the actor himself.
“Next door” is Daniel Brühl's directorial debut, a Kammerspiel written by Daniel Kehlmann with unimagined additions beyond the bar: It's about old stasi and modern digital surveillance, repression through gentrification, arrogance of elites and generally about lies and deception in human coexistence.
It's a brilliant piece for two actors, Brühl and Peter Kurth, and will also make its way to many stages - if the film has made it to the cinema at some point.
Most of the vetoes that turn Berlinale films into ghost films come from producers and distributors, in the well-founded fear that their works could be tapped at the digital Berlinale (the festival swears, of course, everything is safe) and then roam the net without them to bring in a single cent.