Berlinale film festival opens

Berlinale film festival opens
Photo: DPA
The 59th annual Berlinale kicked off on February 5, promising 11 days packed full of films, parties and red carpet star sightings. There’s no better way to while away the post-holiday winter blues in Germany than losing yourself in velvety cinema darkness.

Berlin is abuzz with final preparations for jampacked festival. Join in and pick up a schedule to start working your way through the 383 film titles – of the record 6,107 submitted this year – and then make plans to grab your tickets for screenings at the 20 different venues. The main bulk of events begins on Friday, but be forewarned, tickets go quickly.

The Berlinale, second only to festivals in Cannes and Venice, opens this year with the world-premiere of German director Tom Tykwer’s finance world thriller “The International,” staring Naomi Watts and Clive Owen.

“The whole film is about this huge, faceless multi-billion-dollar bank who I believe to be corrupt and try to convince people, and try to bring them down,” Owen told news agency AFP on Thursday.

“The big questions in the movie are: do banks use our money appropriately? Can you trust them? Are they corrupt? Now the questions have been hugely to the fore in the last six months with what’s been going on.”

Festival director Dieter Kosslick said last week that when organisers chose the film to headline the Berlinale, they didn’t know it would mirror the grim reality of the global financial crisis. But he said that “film, like every art form, can act like a seismograph for societal movement.”

The movie will not screen in the festival’s feature-length competition, but a jury of seven led by Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton will pick the winner of the Golden Bear from among 18 other films on February 14. Competitors for the coveted award include “Rage,” a film about the New York fashion world starring Dame Judi Dench, Jude Law, Steve Buschemi and Dianne Wiest; “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,” with Robin Wright Penn, Keanu Reeves, Julianne Moore and Winona Ryder; and Michelle Williams and Gael Garcia Bernal in “Mammoth.”

Among the thousands of film industry heavies, cinema lovers and hopeful young filmmakers that will descend on the German capital, Kate Winslet, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Martin, Renee Zellweger, Michelle Pfeiffer, Aishwarya Rai, and Demi Moore, and other stars are expected to take to the red carpet.

Apart from the official Berlinale competition, the festival features nine other categories with a film to please every palate, including the kids. To mark the 20th anniversary of the peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989, the series “After Winter Comes Spring – Films Presaging the Fall of the Wall” will screen pre-revolution films from Eastern Europe and Germany.

There will also be a retrospective of films in 70-millimetre format that includes classics like Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Mutiny on the Bounty” with the legendary Marlon Brando.

Those looking to get down with the locals can beef up on their Deutsch with the 12 films in the German programme. Meanwhile there’s an oh-so-German film industry trade fair, a lecture series for aspiring filmmakers, a kids movie programme, culinary cinema events and a short film competition to round out the a world-class selection of difficult choices.

Showcase films this year include Tykwer’s opener “The International,” along with:

“Alle Anderen,” (Everyone Else), Maren Ade, Germany

“Cheri,” Stephen Frears, Britain/Germany/France

“Darbareye Elly” (About Elly), Asghar Farhadi, Iran

“Deutschland 09,” Fatih Akin, Tom Tykwer, Wolfgang Becker, Sylke Enders, Dominik Graf, Christoph Hochhaeusler, Romuald Karmakar, Dani Levy, Nicolette Krebitz, Angela Schanelec, Isabelle Stever, Hans Steinbichler and Hans Weingartner, Germany (out of competition)

“Mei Lanfang” (Forever Enthralled), Chen Kaige, China

“Gigante,” Adrian Biniez, Uruguay/Germany/Argentina/Netherlands

“Happy Tears,” Mitchell Lichtenstein, US

“In the Electric Mist,” Bertrand Tavernier, France/US

“I skoni tou chronou” (The Dust of Time), Theo Angelopoulos,

Greece/Italy/Germany/Russia (out of competition)

“Katalin Varga,” Peter Strickland, Romania/Britain/Hungary

“La Teta Asustada” (The Milk of Sorrow) Claudia Llosa, Spain/Peru

“Lille Soldat” (Little Soldier), Annette K. Olesen, Denmark

“London River,” Rachid Bouchareb, Algeria/France/Britain

“Mammoth,” Lukas Moodysson, Sweden/Germany/Denmark

“The Messenger,” Oren Moverman, US

“My One and Only,” Richard Loncraine, US

“Notorious,” George Tillman Jr, US (out of competition)

“Pink Panther 2,” Harald Zwart, US (out of competition)

“The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,” Rebecca Miller, US (out of competition)

“Rage,” Sally Potter, Britain/US

“The Reader,” Stephen Daldry, US/Germany (out of competition)

“Ricky,” Francois Ozon, France/Italy

“Sturm” (Storm), Hans-Christian Schmid, Germany/Denmark

“Tatarak” (Sweet Rush), Andrzej Wajda, Poland

Check back at The Local for our English-language film and venue picks, tips, interviews, features and more as the Berlinale kicks off this week.