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Culture

Lights, Camera, Action for Kosslick as Berlinale Approaches

Armed with a mischievous smile and twinkling eyes, Dieter Kosslick revels in his role as the director of the Berlinale, which kicks off this year with a film about the illegal machinations of an international bank.

Berlinale head Dieter Kosslick

In his element: Dieter Kosslick

Having gained the post in 2001, the 57-year-old Kosslick has succeeded in boosting the Berlinale's profile in recent years as it competes with rival film festivals in Cannes and Venice.

Kosslick bustles from one appointment to the next in the run-up to the 10-day Berlinale, which is one of the world's top three film festivals and opens on Thursday, Feb. 5.

Berliners love him, and so do the film distributors as well as the celebrities, with Kosslick priding himself on being on a first name basis with many of the biggest names in the movie business.

Previously, Kosslick headed a state-run film foundation in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. There, he gained a reputation for promoting small films, claiming at the time that if the film world failed to cultivate new talent "there'll soon be nobody left in 10 years to make the big films."

Successful showcase for German cinema

That he meant business was clear when he became Berlin Film Festival director and created the Berlinale Talent Campus, which has become a popular event among young filmmakers from around the world.

Berlinale 2009 posters at Potsdamer Platz

The Berlinale has become a premier showcase for new talent

Some 3,834 ambitious young talents from 128 countries responded to the 2009 call for applications, including projects from Botswana, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi and Mongolia.

Since taking over as festival director, Kosslick has also moved to use the Berlinale as a way of successfully showcasing German cinema. About 90 German productions are to be screened in Berlin this year.

In all, a record of more than 6,000 films were submitted to the Berlinale for this year's main program from which 386 were chosen for 1,286 screenings in the festival's various sections.

This means 32 films will be shown each day. Add to that the 679 additional films being viewed by film buyers at the European Film Market, the business side of the festival, and the total jumps to an average of 89 festival screenings daily.

Kosslick bubbles with enthusiasm when asked about German-born director Tom Tykwer's "The International," which has been chosen to open this year's festival. Kosslick told a press conference this week that it is "a film for our time, about the financial machinations of banks."

Starring Clive Owen as an obsessive Interpol agent and Naomi Watts as a Manhattan assistant district attorney, the movie tracks the illegal activities of one of the world's most powerful banks.

Films look at personal stories of war

But in a festival release, Kosslick reflected that this year's directors also try to look at more personal situations now, including many new films delving into the effects of war. The movies, he said, tell stories about what it could mean for a four-year-old child to lose his or her father, or for a newly married woman to lose her husband on the battlefield. Films also delve into what it was like for soldiers returning to "normal" society after spending two years being drilled to kill, he added.

Regarding other trends, Kosslick said more and more films -- both documentaries and large-scale productions -- were also now focusing on food and food production.

"There is a movement starting up, and I'm not just talking about environmentalists," he told German news agency DPA. "Everyday people are standing up and saying, it can't go on like this."

Joel Stalin of Polyface Farms and his grass-fed herd in the film Food Inc.

A scene from the film "Food Inc." which will feature at the Berlinale

Food production, he said in a press release, would be an important topic at the 2009 Berlinale. This includes "Food Inc.," a movie that attempts to uncover manipulation in the food industry.

"It is an international apocalyptic scenario," Kosslick said. "If people don't start thinking differently, and especially if production methods are not changed, we're soon going to be experiencing in the food industry what we are now experiencing in the banking sector -- a real disaster," he said.

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