Berlinale sifts through wreckage of the global financial crisis

AFP - [email protected] • 9 Feb, 2009 Updated Mon 9 Feb 2009 17:06 CEST
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Award-winning British director Michael Winterbottom unveiled "The Shock Doctrine" Monday, one of a raft of Berlin Film Festival entries looking at what set off the chaos ravaging the global economy.

"The Shock Doctrine" is based on the best-selling book by Naomi Klein that examines the rise of "disaster capitalism", the practice of governments and multinational firms preying on countries struck by natural disasters or wars.

The theory asserts that because world powers such as the United States and Britain can profit from bedlam, they not only hunt for "shocks" to exploit but often instigate them themselves: notably in Latin America and Iraq.

Klein argues that the result of the practice - which she says is based on the privatisation doctrine of Nobel-prize winning economist and neo-liberal scholar Milton Friedman - help plant the seeds for the global economic crisis. Although the film falls into some of the same pitfalls as the book, such as ignoring the ethnic and religious factors feeding the bloodshed in Iraq, it was praised here for its ambitious scope and visually arresting style.

Winterbottom directed the picture with Mat Whitecross, with whom he also made the powerful war-on-terror documentary "The Road to Guantanamo" which won a Silver Bear directing prize at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival.

They have again zeroed in on the dominant issue of the day - this time, the global economic meltdown - with "The Shock Doctrine", which is screening alongside several other films turning the spotlight on the root causes of the crisis.

The 11-day festival opened on Thursday with the world premiere of "The International" starring Clive Owen in a thriller about a nefarious banking conglomerate that finances terror attacks, wars and coups to glean profits.

"We selected the opening film months ago and in that time it has gone from being a movie to practically becoming a documentary (about the financial crisis)," festival director Dieter Kosslick said of the movie.

The Panorama sidebar section of the festival is running under the motto "Let's Fix The World" and highlighting muckraking documentaries. "The Yes Men Fix The World" is an entertaining look at a group of activists who infiltrate corporations such as Exxon and Halliburton, exposing on camera the stunning cynicism that often reigns in blue-chip boardrooms.

"Lawyers do battle before a court of law, trade unionists in the world of work and we do what we do," one of the activists, Andy Bichlbaum, says. "In terms of trying to change the system it's certainly not as important as genuine political lobbying. But at least it's something."

Brazilian director Jose Padilha, who won the festival's Golden Bear prize last year for best picture for his ultra-violent drama on police brutality, "Elite Squad," is to unveil "Garapa", which examines the daily struggle for survival of three poor families.

In the Forum section, "The Wondrous World of Laundry" by German director Hans-Christian Schmid zooms in on the journey of bed linens and towels from

Berlin's luxury hotels to the laundromats of Poland, and the people working there who are invisible to the hotels' guests.

The Berlinale, as the event is known, is the first major European film festival of the year and ranks second only to Cannes in size and prestige. It wraps up Sunday.



AFP 2009/02/09 17:06

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