DISPATCH FROM BERLIN: 53rd Berlinale Opens with "Chicago" and Talk of Tolerance
by Eugene Hernandez
A standing-room-only crowd of international journalists packed the press conference hall at the Grand Hyatt here in Berlin on Thursday, while groups of fans braved cold wind gusts and snow flurries to gather on the sidewalks outside the hotel. On local media outlets, reporters buzzed throughout the day about the arrival of Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The three stars, along with co-star John C. Reilly and director Rob Marshall, kicked off the 53rd Berlinale with an opening night gala screening of "Chicago." The Berlinale, known locally as the Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin, got off to a rousing start, paving the way for a number of other celebrity appearances over the next few days. But beyond encounters with Kevin Spacey or Dustin Hoffman, audiences are being challenged with a broad program of films and sections. Thousands will turnout for the event which runs through February 16 here in Berlin.
Armed with motto the motto, "Towards Tolerance," the 2003 Berlinale marks the second festival with Dieter Kosslick at the helm. This is an event that offers celebrities and flashbulbs on one hand, but a deeper message at its core.
"There is a growing desire for peace, for a greater sense of humanity and for being on good terms with one's neighbours," offered Kosslick in his welcome remarks published in the festival catalog, cautioning, "The differences between cultures, economies and ways of looking at the world are increasing rather than diminishing."
That the festival is happening amidst increasing debate here in Europe about the potential war in the Middle East only serves to bolster Kosslick's message at this year's event.
Among the anticipated aspects of the 2003 Berlinale is a unique new segment. Kosslick has delivered on a promise to launch a Talent Campus at this year's Berlinale, hoping to offer up-and-coming filmmakers the opportunity to access the broad group of industry and filmmakers who make the annual trek to Berlin. It is an event with an event that Kosslick has likened to a "summer camp."
He selected 500 filmmakers from 61 countries to participate in the first Berlinale Talent Campus. They were chosen from 2,800 applicants. Workshops, screenings, discussions, and case studies will make up the Talent Campus, which will run from February 10-14. Participants will include up-and-coming filmmakers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and actors.
"The Talent Campus is an active contribution to tolerance in a profession that could do with new values and old wisdom," wrote Kosslick in the welcome message.
THE JURY AND THE COMPETITION
On board as the head of the international jury here in Berlin is Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan. He will lead the group that will select, from the 2003 competition, the winners of the annual Golden and Silver Bears. Joining Egoyan on the jury are German actress Martina Gedeck ("Mostly Martha"), Italian actress Anna Galiena ("The Hairdresser's Husband"), American director Kathryn Bigelow ("K-19: Widowmaker"), French producer Humbert Balsan ("Divine Intervention"), Sundance Film Festival director Geoff Gilmore from the United States, and African director Abderrahmane Sissako ("Heremakono"). Sissalo is replacing director Idrissa Quedraogo from Burkina Faso who is unable to make the festival due to post-production problems on his latest film, "La Colere de Dieu."
In competition this year are: Moussa Sene Absa's "Madame Brouette," Wolfgang Becker's "Good Bye, Lenin," Pascal Bonitzer's "Petites Coupures," Claude Chabrol's "La Fleur du Mal," Patrice Chereau's "Son Frere," George Clooney's "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," Isabel Coixet's "My Life Without Me," Stephen Daldry's "The Hours," Rolf de Heer's "Alexandra's Project," Spike Jonze's "Adaptation," Damjan Kozole's 'Rezervni Deli," Pieter Kramer's "Ja Zuster, Nee Zuster," Spike Lee's "25th Hour," Li Yang's "Mang Jing," Rob Marshall's "Chicago," Alan Parker's "The Life of David Gale," Oskar Roehler's "Der Alte Affe Angst," Gabriele Salvatores' "Io Non Ho Paura," Hans-Christian Schmid's "Lichter," Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York," Steven Soderbergh's "Solaris," Sun Zhou's "Zhou Yu De Huoche," Michael Winterbotton's "In This World," Yoji Yamada's "Tasogare Seibei," and Zhang Yimou's "Ying Xiong."
The short film program in Berlin has been revitalized with a new short film series and a Short Film Night at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) on February 13th. 728 short film submissions were received this year from 46 countries. 57 shorts have been chosen -- 17 in competition, 24 in the festival's Panorama section and 16 in the Kinderfilmfest.
The international short film jury, comprised of The International Federation of Film Producers' Association (FIAPF) general secretary Phyllis Mollet, director of the Umea International Film Festival Thom Palmen, and German filmmaker Andrea Dresen (winner of last year's Grand Jury Prize for "Halbe Treppe," will present the Golden Bear on February 11 in the Berlinale Palast.
The IFP/New York's seventh-annual showcase of American films in Berlin will offer eight films at the Berlinale's concurrent European Film Market (EFP). The four narrative and four documentary projects have participated in the annual IFP Market in New York. The films will screen here in Berlin from February 9-12.
Chosen for this year's American Showcase at the Berlinale's EFP are Tod Harrison's "The Big Bend," which screened at the 2002 Torino Film Festival, "Girlhood" by Liz Garbus ("The Farm: Angola, USA"), Jack Calull and David Eberhardt's "Long Gone," winner of the documentary competition and the cinematography prize at last month's Slamdance Film Festival, Robb Moss' "The Same River Twice" which screened in competition at Sundance last month, Cynthia Wade's "Shelter Dogs," Aion Velie's "Taft," which won the IFP Market completion award, Ghazi Albuliwi's "West Bank Brooklyn" which screened at the 2002 AFI Film Festival, and Robert Saitzyk's "White of Winter" which screened in the American Spectrum section at Sundance 2003.
The American Showcase filmmakers receive accreditation, a screening at the EFM, and a travel stipend. Home base for the group, as well as member companies and a number of visiting Americans, is the IFP's booth at the EFM alongside Telefilm Canada and the British Council.
NEW RUSSIAN CINEMA
Berlinale Festival organizers are highlighted work from Eastern Europe in the New Russian Cinema showcase in Berlin. The program is part of the new Talent Campus and is designed to shine a light on young, emerging Russian filmmakers.
"After the collapse of Communism and the social upheavals throughout Eastern Europe," offered a festival announcement, "Filmmakers now face a wide choice of themes that draw on changed experiences of reality and promise interesting impulses in contemporary cinema."
The showcase will open with a screening of Bakhtijar Khudojnazarov's "Shik" ("The Suit"). Considered a leading young Russian filmmaker, the director is best known for his recent film, "Luna Papa." It is described as, "the story of three friends hunting for a good suit. The real adventure about love and friendship begins when they manage to get hold of a single, very expensive designer suit."
Other films screening in the showcase are Fjodor Popov's "Kavkazskaja Rouletka" ("Caucasian Roulette:), episodes from a successful Russian TV series, and a selection of short films, four of which are from the VGIK academy in Moscow. The showcase will run each evening at 8 p.m.. from February 9 - 13 in Berlin's Haus der Kulturen der Welt.
Other sections of the annual 2003 Berlinale include the Panorama, the Forum, Perspektive Deutsches Kino highlighting German films and the Kinderfilmfest. Retrospectives include a look at the works of Yasujiro Ozu and F.W. Murnau, as well as a tribute to Anouk Aimee.
[indieWIRE Editor-in-Chief Eugene Hernandez is in Berlin and will publish daily reports from the Berlinale next week.]