DISPATCH FROM BERLIN: 53rd Berlinale Opens with "Chicago" and Talk of Tolerance
by Eugene Hernandez
The 53rd Berlinale was busy this weekend here in Germany as a number of buyers closed deals as stars stepped into the spotlight to hype their latest projects.
Sony Pictures Classics is among the active buyers here in Berlin, closing deals for a pair of projects. The company, repped at the fest by co-president Michael Barker, secured rights to Isabel Coixet's competition entry "My Life Without Me," according to the Berlinale festival daily from Screen Intenational. The film, which stars Sarah Polley, Mark Ruffalo, Amanda Plummer, and Deborah Harry, was produced by the Almodovar brothers' El Deso company. Additionally, SPC has nabbed the Israeli film, "Knafayim Shvurot" ("Broken Wings") by Nir Bergman, according to Screen. The film, about a middle class Israeli family, is showing in the festival's Panorama section.
Miramax is also in business here in Berlin. Word on the festival party circuit last night had the company nabbing rights to the competition film "I'm Not Scared" by Gabriele Salvatores ("Mediteranneo"). The thriller, set in Southern Italy in the late-70's, is based on a novel by Niccolo Ammaniti.
Meanwhile, Strand Releasing also struck a deal here in Berlin. Variety reports today that the company will release the hit Israeli queer film, "Yossi and Jagger" directed by Aytan Fox. The Berlinale Panorama picture, based on a true story, follows a love affair between two male officers (Yehuda Levi and Ohad Knoller) in the Israeli Army. Fox's "Shirat Ha'Sirena" ("Song of the Siren") screened in the Berlinale Panorama section in 1995.
Other festival titles that had buyers buzzing on the first weekend of the Berlinale were Wolfgang Becker's German competition entry "Good Bye, Lenin!", Michael Winterbottom's competition film "In This World," and Lone Scherfig's Danish special screening "Wilbur Begar Selvmord" ("Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself").
American celebrites basked in the glow of the international media that have converged on Berlin's Potsdamer Platz. Nicole Kidman, George Clooney, and Dustin Hoffman were among the big names making the rounds to promote festival films this weekend. The Berlinale, offering a larger-than-usual number of big names this year, is an increasingly important European launching pad for American films, with "The Hours, "Adaptation," "Solaris," and "Chicago" among the U.S. entries that have screened so far.
"Party Monster," Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's Sundance 2003 competition film, debuted in the Panorama section here at the Berlinale bringing stars Macaulay Culkin and Seth Green to Germany in support of the movie. Fortissimo, which is selling the film in Berlin, hosted what was no doubt one of the hottest parties of the festival so far. Held at the Riverside Hotel in Mitte, Sunday's late night bash to celebrate the film featured an active dance floor that showcased an array of Berlin's most colorful party monsters. Revelers celebrated until the wee hours before a pack of cabs whisked attendees away for a few hours of sleep before another busy day of festival screenings.