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Culture

Chasing a Golden Bear

The German film fest may not equal the glamour of Cannes or Venice, but it has perhaps the widest and most eclectic mix of any film festival in the world.

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The 52nd Berlin Film Festival will open on Feb. 6 with the world premiere of German director Tom Tykwer's "Heaven".

Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi star in the film, which is both a thriller and a love story.

In all, four German movies will feature at the festival, fulfilling a promise made by the festival's new director to promote local talent.

The bad image of German films is not justified, Dieter Kosslick said in an interview with Spiegel magazine. "Tom Tykwer, or Dominik Graf are excellent directors", Kosslick said, "and German films are not doing badly at the box office either."

He only took on the job last June and he’s already made some interesting changes.

One of the important is the role German productions will play at the festival. Outgoing director British-born Swiss Moritz de Hadeln was criticised during his 22-year reign for failing to use the festival as a platform for German films.

Young talent will also have a better chance of finding an audience in "Perspektive deutsches Kino", a new category which Kosslick introduced to offer budding new directors a forum at the festival.

Rich traditions

Cannes has been notorious for the broohaha it caused with bare-breasted starlets, but Berlin has had its own rich traditions in the business of causing a stir.

If it wasn't the official denunciation of a pro-Vietnamese film from West Germany in the early 1970s, it was public outcry against the programming of pro-Hollywood Steel Magnolias in the early 1990s.

Jury president Gina Lollobrigida publicly slagged her colleagues over the awarding of the Golden Bear to a leftist film in 1986, while another president, George Stevens, led a mass resignation of the jury in protest over the entire programme in 1970.

Cut to the chase

The Berlin International Film Festival has always been considered the host of the more serious films, the sort of weighty fringe pictures that might otherwise fall between the cracks.

This year, however, it seems to be shaping up as a star-studded occasion to rival Cannes or Oscar night itself.

Berlin's A-list of attendees includes Russell Crowe, Judi Dench, Steve Buscemi, Catherine Deneuve, Marisa Tomei, Cate Blanchett, Harvey Keitel and Kevin Spacey. All will jostle for position among some 400 film screenings.

Movies in competition for the prestigious Golden Bear include "The Royal Tenenbaums", "Iris", "The Shipping News" and "Monster's Ball". The 10-member jury will be led by Mira Nair, the Indian director of Monsoon Wedding. Last year's jury plumped for the controversial drama "Intimacy".