Berlin’s 54th international film festival may have lost a few movies to its French rival in Cannes, but there’s still plenty to see with almost 400 films scheduled to screen during the ten-day event starting Feb. 5.
Almost ready for the stars.
Nicole Kidman won't be coming to Berlin after all, but celebrities are still bound to crowd the Berlin festival’s red carpets to promote their movies: Jack Nicholson and Nick Nolte are expected to show up, Cate Blanchett and Juliette Binoche will drop by as well.
Focus on South Africa and Latin America
The French actress Binoche stars in “Country of My Skull,” a movie about South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation commission. The film is one of 23 productions competing for the festival’s top honor, the Golden Bear, which is awarded by an international jury under the presidency of Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand this year.
The Berlinale’s special focus this year is on South Africa as the country celebrates the tenth anniversary of the end of Apartheid. Latin America will also receive extra attention: Argentine director Fernando Solanas will receive an honorary Golden Bear for life-time achievement.
A scene from "Maria, llena eres de gracia"
In the competition, his countryman Daniel Burman’s “El abrazo partido” (Lost Embrace) focuses on a life in a seedy Buenos Aires shopping center. The U.S.-Colombian co-production “Maria, llena eres de gracia” (Maria Full of Grace, photo) by Joshua Marston, which just won the dramatic audience award at the Sundance Film Festival, tells the story of a young woman who becomes a drug runner to escape life on a flower plantation.
Festival organizers, who received 3,117 submissions this year, also included two German movies in the competition: “Gegen die Wand” (Head-On) by Turkish-German director Fatih Akin and “Die Nacht singt ihre Lieder” (Nightsongs) by Romuald Karmakar.
U.S. competition entries are Patty Jenkins’ “Monster” with Golden Globe winner Charlize Theron, Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunset,” and Ron Howard’s “The Missing.” The winner will be announced on Feb. 14.
Talents, Markets, Retrospectives
Apart from the competition, the festival also includes a range of other events such as a short film festival, a section for upcoming art house movies called Panorama and screenings of the latest offerings in “German Cinema.” The traditional children’s film festival has been expanded to include movies for those 14 and older.
This year’s retrospective is called “New Hollywood 1967 – 1976: Trouble in Wonderland” and includes classics such as Martin Scorcese’s “Taxi Driver,” Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather I/II” and Dennis Hopper’s “Easy Rider.” Another retrospective entitled “Selling Democracy – Welcome Mr. Marshall” shows post-World War II productions aimed at creating support for U.S. reconstruction efforts.
Berlinale organizers have also invited 520 film makers from 84 countries to attend the so-called talent campus, where they will work with accomplished colleagues such as “Cold Mountain” director Anthony Minghella, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (“Gangs of New York”) and composer Zbigniew Preisner (“Blue,” “White,” “Red,”) among others. Some participants will also be given a chance to market their own films in the festival’s new co-production market, which brings them together with producers and financers.
Festival Director Dieter Kosslick at Monday's Berlinale press conference.
Another event is called “Hollywood in Nigeria”: It looks at the West African country’s booming movie industry, where about 1,200 films are produced each year. “We thought that Africa’s been a little underexposed,” festival director Dieter Kosslick said, adding that Nigerian movie makers had offered to produce films specifically for each of the festival’s categories.
Three go to Cannes
Unlike their Nigerian colleagues, three other film makers and production companies decided to pull out their movies from the festival and sent them to Cannes later in the spring even as Berlinale programs were already getting printed.
Kosslick admitted to losing some sleep over the loss of Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries,” based on the journal of revolutionary Che Guevara. But referring to the Berlinale’s rivalry with its more glamorous French counterpart, he added that this was just proof of the high quality of Berlinale films.