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Culture

Berlinale Soars to New Heights

The new director of the 52nd star-studded Berlin Film Festival, Dieter Kosslick has injected a much-needed freshness into the film gala, which ranks among the top three film festivals in Europe.

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Dieter Kosslick, the director of the Berlin film festival is credited with making it a film fest with a difference

This year's Berlin Film Festival has taken off with a bang. Amid popping flashbulbs, hysterical fans and a maze of microphones, international stars and celebrities have descended upon the German capital lighting up the grey winter days.

On offer this time is a dazzling array of about 400 films from around the world for an expected audience of about 420,000.

Lifetime Acheivement award for Robert Altman

The latest celebrity to add a dash of glamour to the ongoing Berlinale is 76-year-old maverick US filmmaker Robert Altman.

The Berlinale honoured Altman on Sunday by awarding him the Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement at the screening of his new film, "Gossford Park". The film is a murder mystery set in an English manor in 1932.

A leading American director for over 30 years, Altman shot to fame with his 1970 war satire, " M:A:S:H:". His other widely acclaimed films include Nashville, Buffalo Bill and the Indians, which was awarded a Golden Bear at the Berlinale in 1976, Short Cuts, The Gingerbread Man and several others.

Pomp and glamour as always at the Berlinale

Like other Berlin film festivals in the past, this one too has a guest list that reads like a who's who of the glamorous world of film.

Cate Blanchett, Russel Crowe, Catherine Denevue, Anjelica Huston, Wim Wenders, Judi Dench, Kevin Spacey, Mario Adorf, directors Helmut Dietl, Volker Schlöndorff, Mira Nair and a host of other prominent personalities.

The festival opened this year by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had its fair share of German political heavyweights too at the opening gala.

So what's new at this Berlinale?

But what is new this year is the passion and spirit palpable at the Berlinale, a feeling of it being a true cinematic feast. The Berlinale has managed to shed the gloom that always seemed to inexplicably hang over it in the past.

And this could be due to the efforts of the new Director of the Berlin Film Festival,Dieter Kosslick, who has long been the head of Germany's most powerful film subsidy board.

Kosslick, who replaces British-born Swiss Moritz de Hadeln is dynamic, marketing savvy and is keen on putting Berlin on the international film map.

A distinct German flavour

Unlike his predecessor, who was vague about the kind of cinema he wanted to represent, Kosslick has made no bones about using the festival to showcase German film, something the event has not always done.

Even his selection of "Heaven", a love story and thriller by young German director Tom Tykwer as the opening film is a far cry from last year's Hollywood hit, "Enemy at the Gates", a flashy war epic which opened the festival.

"This is not a marketing story for German films. This will be a showcase. There is no reason why German films cannot be successful abroad", Kosslick said in an interview with Reuters.

Despite the formidable Hollywood challenge, Germany had the fastest growing film market among leading nations in 2001, with home-made productions grabbing their largest market share in 15 years according to the German film board.

Man with a fresh approach

Kosslick, 53 has travelled the world in search of films since taking over as the Director of the Berlinale in mid-2001. He has a brilliant reputation in European film circles for his successful management of the North Rhine- Westphalia film fund.

It's hoped that Kosslick with his 20 years experience of promoting German film, will bring his "Midas touch" to the Berlinale too

And Kosslick is enthused about his new project. "Berlin has a great position. It's a gigantic international meeting place for the industry and simultaneously a showcase for quality films", he told Reuters.

"We want to use the Berlinale as a market instrument for films and talent. Our task is to strike the right balance between market and art".

There's no doubt that a fresh wind has begun blowing at the acclaimed Berlin film festival.

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