Berlinale 2006 – ten days every winter Berlin becomes the world’s film capital. From Clooney to Campus – The ARTS.21 dossier on the 56th International Film Festival in Berlin.
Which stars grace the red carpet is always the big question in the run-up to the Berlin Film Festival, and a matter that causes many a sleepless night for Dieter Kosslick, the director of this mega-event.
But this year all the worry has paid off. The 56th Berlinale, which along with Venice and after Cannes is one of Europe's top three film festivals, is not only attracting lots of stars, Dieter Kosslick has also managed to give it a very sharp profile with a remarkable selection of hard-hitting socially critical or political films. Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman are ensuring that the opening night on February the 9th at the Potsdamer Platz in downtown Berlin is glamorous enough. They are both here for the world premiere of the British-Canadian production «Snow Cake». This melodrama by Marc Evans is about a difficult friendship between an autistic woman and a man who has been traumatised by a fatal car accident. The list of international celebrities expected on the red carpet during these ten day is impressively long: George Clooney, Isabella Rossellini, Meryl Streep, Vin Diesel, Roberto Benigni, Isabelle Huppert and Claude Chabrol are all going to brave the chilly Berlin winter weather. Charlotte Rampling is heading the international jury, which also includes veteran German actor Armin Müller-Stahl. But no matter how many stars actually show up the Berlinale 2006 programme with a total of around 400 films and another 600 showing in the film market offers many a highlight on the silver screen. German productions are yet again among the entries catching the limelight . Homegrown talent is featuring prominently this year, with a total of 55 German films represented in all sections and no less than four of them competing in the main competition.
German Movie Highlights
Oskar Roehler’s adaptation of French author Michel Houellebecq’s best-selling novel "Elementary Particles" is a clear favourite vying for the prestigious Golden Bear prize, which is awarded at the festival's close. This movie featuring Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Uwe Ochsenknecht, Corinna Harfouch and Nina Hoss is just one of the many films in the main competition that will be having their world premiere at this year’s festival. Alongside «Requiem», the latest film by Hans-Christian Schmid starring Sandra Hueller as a woman who believes she’s possessed by demons, the Competition will present two more world premieres of German films: In «Der freie Wille» (The Free Will), director Matthias Glasner follows a man who has been released from prison after serving twelve years for multiple rape. Jürgen Vogel plays this man who is so driven by inner forces; Sabine Timoteo, a young woman who wants to free him from his restraints. In «Sehnsucht» Valeska Grisebach (who came to fame with «Be My Star») recounts the story of a love triangle set in provincial eastern Germany.
Dominik Graf, movie director
Using a cast of amateurs, Grisebach reflects on dreams and departures, as well as on the search for happiness and related sufferings and hopes. You can discover exciting German entries in all the other sections of the Berlinale; just one example is «The Red Cockatoo» by Domink Graf showing in the Panorama section. Fans of German cinema must check out the «Perspektive deutsches Kino», where there is a fascinating spectrum of productions on offer.
The international highlights
Veteran director Robert Altman, an old favourite in Berlin and winner of numerous Berlinale prizes is premiering his latest work in the main competition.
Robert Altman, movie director,
His comedy «A Prairie Home Companion» is about the last broadcast of America's most celebrated radio show. The script was written by Garrison Keillor himself and the star-studded cast includes Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, Kevin Kline and John C.Reilly. A total number of 26 films are in the competition section, 19 of them will compete for the Golden and Silver Bears and 17 films are world premieres. Quite a few highlights the main programme will be showing out of competition, among them the political thriller «Syriana» starring George Clooney and Matt Damon. «The New World» by Terrence Malick is also eagerly awaited. In it Colin Farrell stars as the 17th century British explorer John Smith who fell in love with the Powhatan princess Pocahontas. Asia is strongly represented too with the Thai director Ratanaruang Pen-ek's psycho-thriller «Invisible Waves» which focuses on a contract killer. Chen Kaige's «The Promise» is a spectacular and colourful martial arts adventure, and with a budget of 35 million dollars it’s the most expensive Chinese production to date.
Festival Meeting Points
The screenings and parties around the main competition are of course a must, seeing and being seen is the name of the game when celebrities from the worlds of film, politics and the media bask in the limelight. But where do the true film aficionados go to?
They prefer to attend the films shown in the many other Berlinale sections: the Panorama with its focus on international art house cinema, the International Forum of New Cinema, the German Cinema section Perspektive deutsches Kino as well as the Children’s and Young People’s Film Festival. The Berlinale is also very important for the business side of film with buyers and sellers from around the world gathering at the European Film Market, where 254 companies from 45 countries attending and the Market for Co-productions, where 44 projects from 25 countries will be presented. As for the filmmakers of the future, they enjoy the Berlinale Talent Campus where they can spend a week networking and learning from leading lights of the international film business.