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BERLINALE 2013

FILM

Berlinale kicks off with kung fu epic

The 63rd Berlin film festival got off to a fists-flying start Thursday with Chinese director Wong Kar Wai's lush martial arts epic about the mentor of kung fu superstar Bruce Lee.

Berlinale kicks off with kung fu epic
Photo: DPA

Wong, who also leads the Berlinale’s jury this year, is using the event as a launch pad for the worldwide release of “The Grandmaster”, which opened in China last month to rave reviews and a box office bonanza.

The film, whose original two-hours-plus length has been chopped slightly for the global market, stars Hong Kong heart-throb Tony Leung from Wong’s 2000 hit “In the Mood for Love”, and Beijing-born actress Zhang Ziyi (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”).

The picture, which was warmly applauded at a press preview, spans several decades of Chinese history to tell the story of legendary martial artist Yip Man, who went on to train Lee, and features mesmerising battle scenes.

Take a walk down the red carpet here

Wong, 54, told reporters he was confident the movie, which is screening out of competition at the 11-day Berlinale, had appeal beyond China, the world’s second biggest cinema market after the United States.

“There is something in this film which is universal. It’s about family values and the code of honour,” he said. “If they are curious enough… it is also a step for (the international audience) to learn more, to explore.”

The film follows the Grandmaster through some of China’s most tumultuous recent history including the Japanese invasion in the 1930s.

It spent around a decade in gestation, with extensive re-shooting and injured actors.

Leung said he started learning kung fu at the age of 46, practised for four years for the film and broke his arm twice doing some of his own stunts. But he said the biggest challenge was capturing the Grandmaster’s state of mind.

“After four years of hard training I understand kung fu is not just physical training or fighting techniques,” he said.

“There is a spiritual side of kung fu and that side you cannot be learning from books or by fact-finding. It grows spontaneously with the mind free of emotions and desires. That is why I had to practise four years.”

Zhang plays the sole inheritor of the “64 Hands” technique of her father, another martial arts master, and uses them to lethal effect in the tale of betrayal and vengeance.

She said she accepted the gruelling training and filming schedule to work with Wong, who shot for 20 months over three years.

“If Wong Kar Wai asked me again to give this amount of time, I would do it again, that’s how great he is,” she said.

Reviews in the international trade press on Thursday were glowing.

“The film contains some of the most dazzling fights ever seen on screen,” the Hollywood Reporter wrote.

It added: “Wong’s art-house fan-base also will find much to savour, with the kind of longing that defines the filmmaker’s oeuvre,” in films such as “In the Mood for Love” and “My Blueberry Nights” with Jude Law.

Variety concurred: “Wong Kar Wai exceeds expectations… fashioning a 1930s action saga into a refined piece of commercial filmmaking.”

But German critics were decidedly less impressed by the flick, with one telling Berlin broadcaster RBB he lost interest by the end.

Wong, who made his international breakthrough in 1994 with “Chungking Express”, later joined his stars on the red carpet in his trademark sunglasses for a gala screening at the festival’s Berlinale Palast main cinema.

He is leading the panel handing out the Golden and Silver Bear top prizes among 19 contenders on February 16.

Wong told a press conference with his jury that the Berlinale was an “intimate” festival where the “true pleasure” of sharing ideas was cherished.

“We are here to serve the films, we’re not here to judge films, we are here to appreciate films, to champion the films that we really find inspiring… and move us,” he said.

The first major European film festival of the year and traditionally its most politically minded, the Berlinale this year is showcasing pictures about the human impact of the West’s economic crisis, two decades of upheaval in eastern Europe as well as fresh releases from US independent directors.

Last year the Golden Bear went to Italian veterans Paolo and Vittorio Taviani for the docudrama “Caesar Must Die” about prison inmates staging Shakespeare.

AFP/hc

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CULTURE

Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

The holiday of Diwali kicks off on Monday. Here's where you can celebrate all around Germany.

Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

With over 100,000 Indians in Germany, and over 175,000 people of Indian descent, it’s little wonder that Diwali – the famous five day Hindi festival of lights starting this year on Monday October 24th – is being celebrated all around the Bundesrepublik

READ ALSO: Indians in Germany: Who are they and where do they live?

Even the House of Parliament in Frankfurt is honouring the holiday for the first time with a special reception on October 30th.

Diwali takes its name from the clay lamps or deepa (the event is sometimes called Deepawali) that many Indians light outside their home. With the days shortening in Germany, there’s all the more reason to celebrate light — especially over lively music, traditional dance and authentically spicy Indian cuisine.

We have rounded up some of the top events to celebrate around Germany, both the week of Diwali and afterwards, stretching into mid-November. If you have an additional event to suggest, email us at [email protected]

October 24th in Heidelberg

Happen to be in Heidelberg? Then it’s not too late to head to the Sweet Home Project, which will be cooking up a storm starting at 6:30pm. The menu includes an assortment of Indian sweets and savoury dishes. The collective only asks that participants bring along a candle (and a hearty appetite).

If you miss this event, and are still craving some (really) spicy traditional cuisine, the Firebowl Heidelberg is hosting a Diwali party on October 29th, replete with lots of food and drink and Bollywood beats the whole night. 

October 29th near Frankfurt

For those who fancy a Feier with a full-buffet, this celebration in Dreieich delivers through an all-you-can-eat dinner with traditional fare. Starting at 5pm and stretching into the early hours of the morning, the festive feast includes traditional Bollywood music by Derrick Linco. There’s also a dance party for kids, who receive free admission up to seven years old and €25 up to 14 years. Normal tickets go for €40 per person.

A previous Diwali celebration of traditional dance and music in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Sebastian Kahnert

November 4th near Düsseldorf

On November 4th at 6pm, the Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft Düsseldorf will be hosting a family-friendly party in nearby Ratingen with classical Indian music and dance, a huge dinner and Bollywood music led by DJ SA-ONE. Tickets cost about €40 each, but children under six receive free entry. 

November 5th in Bonn 

The Indian Students Association of Bonn-Cologne will be hosting its biggest event of the year: for €10, event goers can try an array of Indian food, play classic games and tune into cultural performances. 

READ ALSO: Moving from India to Munich changed my life

November 12th in Essen 

Whether you like traditional bhajans or meditative ragas, this concert will capture many of the classic sounds of Indian music with artists such as Anubhab Tabla Ensemble, Debasish Bhattacharjee and Somnath Karmorak taking center stage. The performance starts at 5pm and costs €10. 

November 12th and 13th in Berlin

Indian food fans will get to enjoy 12 stands devoted to Indian cuisine and products, all coming from the local Indian community. The weekend-long festival will also include stand-up comedy from the Desi Vibes Comedy Group. Karaoke fans will also enjoy singing along with the Sounds of India group, followed by an after party on Saturday. All this only costs €2 at the door. 

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