The 63rd edition of the Berlin Film Festival has kicked off with a red-carpet gala event and the premiere of a martial arts movie. It is one of 19 films that will compete for the Berlinale’s top prize, the Golden Bear.
German and international film stars were among those to make their way down the red carpet past hundreds of onlookers and photographers. Among the best known international stars to grace this year's opening gala was the veteran American actress Jane Fonda.
The film that opened the festival, The Grandmaster, introduced the audience to the mentor of kung fu legend Bruce Lee. It was directed by Hong Kong's Wong Kar Wai, who is also president of the jury for this year's Berlinale.
The movie, which drew warm applause at a press preview, tells the story of martial artist Yip Man, featuring many battle scenes.
However, the 54-year-old Wong (pictured above, left) told reporters that the film was not meant as a "kung-fu spectacle," but instead to show how traditions and philosophies were handed down from one generation to the next.
"I hope this film conveys a new picture of what martial arts is," Wong said. "It is more than a combat sport, it influences how you lead your life. It can provide spiritual greatness."
Among the other 19 films competing for prizes at the festival are Gold, which tells a tale of German immigrants trying their luck in North America in the late 1800s.
Also featured is the Steven Soderbergh thriller Side Effects, with Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Gus Van Sant's film Promised Land about the shale gas industry, starring Matt Damon.
One winner was announced before the Berlin Film Fesitval opened. French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann is to be honored for his life's work. Lanzmann's nine-and-a-half hour documentary "Shoah" about the horrors of the Holocaust was featured at the festival in 1986.
A total of more than 400 films are to be shown at this year's Berlinale, which runs until February 17.
Thursday's opening gala was shortly interrupted by a protest by four topless women with slogans against female genital mutilation written on their bodies. Police said the four women, who appeared to have been from the Ukraine, were briefly arrested and later released.
pfd/rc (dpa, AFP)