The 63rd Berlin film festival will comb through the “collateral damage” of the global economic crisis with Hollywood movies and independent releases vying for prizes, organisers said last week.
The February 7-17 Berlinale, the first major European film festival of the year, will showcase 24 pictures from 22 countries in the main programme, with a total of more than 400 movies screened in its sprawling sidebar sections.
A jury led by Chinese director Wong Kar Wai will choose among 19 films in competition for the Golden and Silver Bear top prizes, to be awarded at a gala red-carpet ceremony February 16.
Oscar-winning actor Tim Robbins, New York-based Iranian filmmaker Shirin Neshat, Greek producer Athina Rachel Tsangari, Danish Academy Award-winner Susanne Bier, German director Andreas Dresen and US camerawoman Ellen Kuras round out the panel.
Festival director Dieter Kosslick told reporters as he unveiled the full programme that the Berlinale was continuing its tradition, begun during the Cold War, of featuring politically charged cinema from big names and upstarts.
“On the one hand we have major Hollywood films, but we have also brought in filmmakers who are on their first or second picture,” he said.
“Thematically throughout the programme you have a lot of women at the heart of the stories... and the collateral damage of the crisis on various societies.”
Star-gazers can expect Matt Damon, Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Geoffrey Rush, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Christopher Lee and Zhang Ziyi, among others.
Damon teams up with US director Gus Van Sant for the first time since their 1997 Oscar winner “Good Will Hunting” in “Promised Land”, about US families facing the economic pinch who sell their land to companies extracting natural gas through fracking.
Steven Soderbergh, who has said he is heading into semi-retirement, reunites with Law from “Contagion” and Catherine Zeta-Jones from “Traffic” to present “Side Effects”, about the pharmaceuticals industry preying on stressed-out Americans.
Deneuve stars in the light-hearted French road movie “On My Way”, about a down-on-her-luck restaurant owner who sets out on a transformative trip.
Academy Award-winning Bosnian filmmaker Danis Tanovic (“No Man’s Land”) returns with “An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker”, in which he turns a small hand-held digital camera on a Roma village locked in grinding poverty.
Kosslick said the sidebar sections would feature a number of new productions from European countries stricken by the eurozone debt crisis, including Greece, Spain and Portugal, and would look at its corrosive effects.
And British director Ken Loach will premiere a documentary about the economic hardship in post-war England that revived the socialist movement.
Last year the Golden Bear went to Italy’s veteran filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani for “Caesar Must Die”, a docu-drama about inmates at a high-security prison staging Shakespeare.
From Iran comes “Closed Curtain,” directed by dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi and fellow Iranian Kamboziya Partovi. Panahi was sentenced to house arrest in Iran and banned from filmmaking after being convicted in 2011 of “making propaganda” against Iran’s ruling system. Festival director Dieter Kosslick said Panahi’s no longer confined to his home but still isn’t supposed to make films.
Kosslick said that organizers “tried to bring new people who are making films for the first or second time into the program,” continuing a tradition of having less-heralded directors rub shoulders with established names.