60th Berlin film fest goes back to East-West roots

BERLIN, Deborah Cole - The star-studded 60th Berlin Film Festival starting next week will return to its roots bridging East and West, organisers said Monday, this time uniting hot Hollywood fare with fresh Asian releases.
The anniversary edition of the Berlinale, the first major European cinema showcase of the year, will celebrate a tradition of crossing frontiers with nearly 400 films in the line-up, festival director Dieter Kosslick said.

Posters featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere and John C. Reilly in Berlin
Posters featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere and John C. Reilly in Berlin
"We will start off with a beautiful film from China," he told reporters, referring to Wang Quan'an's "Apart Together" (Tuan Yuan) on February 11, a world premiere that will kick off the 10-day competition for the Golden Bear top prize.
"Now, 20 years after German reunification, we will show a story about people driven apart by society and how they become reunited."
"Apart Together" is a period drama about a soldier forced to flee Chairman Mao's forces for Taiwan in 1949 who reunites with the love of his life decades later.
The main programme will feature releases from 18 countries including new pictures from Martin Scorsese and Roman Polanski, currently under house arrest in Switzerland awaiting possible extradition to the United States on charges of unlawful sex with a then 13-year-old girl in a three-decades-old case.
Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" stars Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan, who are expected in Berlin alongside Leonardo DiCaprio with Scorsese's new thriller "Shutter Island" and Bollywood heart-throb Shah Rukh Khan appearing in "My Name is Khan".
Also awaited on the red carpet are Gerard Depardieu, for the world premiere of the French competition film "Mammuth" co-starring Isabelle Adjani, James Franco for the competition entry "Howl" about beat poet Allen Ginsberg, and Ben Stiller in "Greenberg" by US indie star Noah Baumbach.
Reclusive British graffiti artist Banksy is due to make a low-profile visit for a documentary about his work, "Exit Through the Gift Shop", which had its world premiere at the US festival Sundance last month.
Meanwhile the sprawling European Film Market is for the first time to feature 3-D screenings in a nod to the runaway box office success of James Cameron's "Avatar" and the animated "Up", which opened Cannes last year.
Also keenly awaited is a screening of a restored version of the 1927 groundbreaking German classic "Metropolis" -- complete with 25 minutes of lost footage unearthed in Argentina two years ago -- at the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of German unity since national unification in 1990.
Kosslick noted that the Berlinale's roots in the aftermath of the Nazi era and the start of the Cold War -- it was launched in 1951 in then West Berlin with US backing -- meant that the festival had always had a political edge.
"Berlin was always in focus, as a symbol of guilt, for divided systems, but also for a new beginning," he said.
"After I started (in 2001), we soon had the American invasion of Iraq and red carpet went from being a catwalk to a kind of Hyde Park where people could speak their minds about what was happening."
Kosslick said he expected aid for quake-shattered Haiti and anger over the financial crisis to dominate debate at this year's festival.
The main programme will wrap up February 20 with a screening of "About Her Brother" (Otouto) by Japanese master Yoji Yamada, 78.
That night, a jury led by German director Werner Herzog and including Renee Zellweger ("Bridget Jones' Diary") will hand out the Golden and Silver Bear prizes at a gala ceremony. The event wraps up the following day.
The Berlinale ranks second among Europe's top film festivals after Cannes.

Monday, February 1st 2010
Deborah Cole

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