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Berlinale Special: a new section

The International Film Festival has created a new series in its Official Programme: the Berlinale Special. In it the latest works of great filmmakers will be screened as well as reshowings of important film works, and productions related to the Festival’s special focuses or to particularly explosive political topics.

This year’s series includes three reshowings, the most recent films of master directors Peter Greenaway and Ermanno Olmi, two productions examining the political past, and three films related to the Festival’s special focus on music.

In addition to the festival’s Kino International and Zoo-Palast cinemas, the Berlinale Special has a new venue: the splendidly restored Film-Palast on the Kurfürstendamm. And to ensure that the films and their makers are given the reception they deserve, a red carpet will also be rolled out at this location .

The Berlinale Special is screening the following new films by top directors:

In Cantando dietro i paraventi (Singing Behind Screens), the famous Italian arthouse director Ermanno Olmi has staged a delicately spun tale based on a Chinese opera from the 19th century. It is set in China at the end of the 18th century: a pirate’s widow wants to take revenge for her husband’s death and with her pirate fleet she leaves a trail of destruction behind her. She clashes with the imperial armada and as a result the young heir to the throne sets out in pursuit of her. Complex in its construction, the film’s powerful and poetic images are extremely captivating. The leading roles are played by Bud Spencer, Jun Ichikawa and Sally Ming Zeo Ni.

Known for his experimental films, Peter Greenaway will be coming from Great Britain to screen in the Berlinale Special the second part of what is so far his most ambitious film project. The Tulse Luper Suitcases is a work of encyclopaedic dimensions which covers 60 years of the history of uranium – number 92 in the periodic table of elements. It is also the tale of the artist and writer Tulse Luper, whose life and time is reconstructed based on the contents of 92 suitcases which show up from time to time all over the world. Isabella Rosselini, Franka Potente and Ornella Muti co-star in this film.

The Berlinale Special is screening the following important film works:

French director Jacques Demy has moved generations of viewers with his screen adaptation of the fairly tale Peau d’ane (Donkey Skin) by Charles Perrault. Cathérine Deneuve plays a young princess who has to foil her own father’s plans to marry her. A fairy rushes to her aid and provides her with a donkey skin. This screening of the restored edition will give Berlinale audiences the opportunity to see the film, which was made in 1970, in its original splendour and to hear an improved re-recording of the soundtrack. The film features Cathérine Deneuve, Jean Marais, Jacques Perrin and Delphine Seyrig.

Prior to Peau d’ane, director Agnès Varda – wife of Jacques Demy, who died in 1990 – will show the short film Le lion volatil. It is part of a collection of short films compiled on the topic: Paris, je t'aime.

From Germany the film Das Boot ist voll (The Boat is Full) will be presented. It describes the fate of a group of Jewish refugees and addresses the controversial topic of how Switzerland dealt with asylum during World War II. In 1942, after fleeing from German imprisonment, some Jews make their way across the border into Switzerland. When the authorities send them back, they are doomed to a terrible fate. At the Berlinale in 1981 Markus Imhoof won a Silver Berlin Bear for his thought-provoking drama; in the following year it was nominated for an Oscar. The festival is pleased to be able to show this film – long missing – in a new, digitally restored edition. The main characters are played by Tina Engel, Curt Bois, Renate Steiger and Mathias Gnädinger.

In tribute of director Peter Schamoni’s 70th birthday, Frühlingssinfonie (Spring Symphony), which he made in 1984, will be shown. It portrays the love story between Clara Wieck and Robert Schumann, and how they had to overcome the love-hate relationship between Schumann and Clara’s father Friedrich Wieck. Her father wants to further Clara’s career and so realize his own artistic ambitions. The battle which the two men fight over Clara is simultaneously a battle between different artistic styles and lifestyles, a war between the generations. Schumann’s Spring Symphony is the expression of his love for Clara and, following many setbacks, an expression of his hard-won victory. Nastassja Kinski, Rolf Hoppe and Herbert Grönemeyer co-star in the film.

The Berlinale Special is screening the following films dealing with the political past:

Papa – rua Alguem 5555 (My Father) by the Italian director Egidio Eronico depicts a young man who travels to South America to meet his father for the first time – the man who conducted brutal experiments on humans while he was a doctor at the concentration camp in Auschwitz and thus was responsible for the deaths of thousand of prisoners. The son confronts the father with his past, seeks answers for his questions and hopes that he can convince the man to turn himself in. The film is based on the novella Vati (Daddy) by the German writer Peter Schneider, who worked the life of concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele into the story. Charlton Heston, F. Murray Abraham and Thomas Kretschmann play the leading roles.

The documentary-like German-French fiction feature Pour l'amour du peuple ( I Love You All) by Eyal Sivan and Audrey Maurion (Ein Spezialist/The Specialist) is based on a former Stasi Major’s authentic eye-witness report as well as never-before-shown archive footage from the former GDR. The protagonist is a voice heard from off screen. It belongs to a man who blindly and helplessly watches the downfall of a system which he wants to believe in until the very end. The second role in the film is played by the people, the abstract masses which try every means to decipher the protagonist. Using an unusual montage of sound and visuals, it provides a kaleidoscope of a society under constant surveillance.

The Berlinale Special is screening the following films for the Festival’s special focus on music:

Rhythm Is It! – this unconventional German music film by Thomas Grube and Enrique Sánchez Lansch shows the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and their chief conductor Sir Simon Rattle during their first season together at their rehearsals for Igor Strawinsky’s Le sacre du printemps. They develop this performance as an “educational project” with children and adolescents from schools in socially deprived areas in Berlin; most of them have never had any experience with dance before. Viewers should not expect a classical concert film, but a lively, visually sophisticated, music film adventure. During the same period, a documentation was made in which some of the young people who were participating in this performance were given a chance to speak their minds.

Strawinsky’s ballet Le sacre du printemps is about a pagan rite of spring in which a human sacrifice is offered. This silent film by German director Oliver Herrmann, who died last autumn, transports the story to modern times and sets it in the world of the Cuban Santeria – one of the few archaic religions still practised today. Within this context, the material world is shown as a cold large city, while spirituality is embodied by a tropical island. The music for this silent film was recorded by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle and will be performed live for the world premiere of the film on February 15 in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall. Sophie Semin, Ariadna del Carmen and Robert Hunger-Bühler co-star in the film.
(Philharmonic Hall)

The film Process will be presented as a live event. John Cale will perform to this film by the French director CS Leigh, who staged a drama of destruction – in which very few words are exchanged – to the sound compositions of the musician. An actress is determined to end her life. Her past has involved many painful events, and she no longer has the strength to fight the shadows cast by them. The music, long travelling shots und expressive light effects contribute to the work’s special character. The film features Béatrice Dalle, Guillaume Depardieu and Daniel Duval.
(The House of World Cultures)

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