In principle, it's business as usual,' says Dieter Kosslick of his seventh outing as Berlinale festival director, before going on to admit this year's line-up boasts a slew of prestigious world premieres. 'We have some really big highlights this year, such as Martin Scorsese's opening film, the documentary Shine A Light about the Rolling Stones.'
Of the 26 Competition films, 18 are world premieres (down one from last year) - ranging from Mike Leigh's unusually light-hearted Happy-Go-Lucky through Doris Dorrie's tragi-comic love story Cherry Blossoms to Amos Kollek's redemption drama Restless. 'We have a good mix of large and smaller films,' says Kosslick. 'There are many more independent productions than in the past, but we also have big films from people such as Miramax, Buena Vista and Universal.'
Kosslick identifies two threads running through the Berlinale: music and children. As well as Scorsese's film - which is the first time the festival has kicked off with a documentary - there is a movie on rock icon Patti Smith, Patti Smith: Dream Of Life, while Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Alfredo Santaolalla has co-produced Miguel Kohn's tango film Cafe De Los Maestros. 'We also have films where music such as hip hop is shown to be a catalyst for young people forging their own identity,' says Kosslick.
There are also several features and documentaries with the fates of young people at their centre. 'They address, for example, the exploitation of children in sweatshops or pornography,' Kosslick explains.
The Berlinale's budget is the same as last year at $24m (EUR16.2m), financed with $9.3m (EUR6.3m) from the State Ministry for Culture (BKM), with the remainder coming from sponsors, ticket sales and income generated by accreditation fees and merchandising. The number of accredited professionals is expected to top 20,000 this year - up 7% on 2007 - including around 4,000 journalists.
Meanwhile, Kosslick believes the Berlinale Talent Campus is going from strength to strength. He says 3,304 emerging talents from 120 countries applied for one of the 350 places at the sixth edition. More than 120 film luminaries, including Mike Leigh, Stephen Daldry and Sandrine Bonnaire, will be speaking. And for the first time, two films by Talent Campus graduates are screening in the Competition: Lance Hammer's Ballast and Fernando Eimbcke's Lake Tahoe.
Elegy (US) Dir: Isabel Coixet
Ben Kingsley stars as a womanising professor who becomes possessive of a young student, played by Penelope Cruz, in Coixet's adaptation of Philip Roth's novel, The Dying Animal.
Int'l sales: Lakeshore International, (1) 310 867 8000
Gardens Of The Night (US) Dir: Damien Harris
Sobini Films' Gardens Of The Night tells the story of a young girl abducted from her parents and set free after nine years of abuse and incarceration. Harris spent two years researching the experiences of children, counsellors, police and pimps. Gillian Jacobs and John Malkovich star.
Int'l sales: Sobini Films, www.sobinifilms.com
Happy-Go-Lucky (UK) Dir: Mike Leigh
This light-hearted drama, a first for Leigh, stars Sally Hawkins as a young schoolteacher navigating her way through life in London. Leigh returns to Berlin for the first time since Life Is Sweet played in Panorama in 1991. Summit has already sold to the UK (Momentum), Scandinavia (Sandrew), Australia/New Zealand (Rialto) and several other territories, but most major buyers - including in the US - are waiting to see the film, produced by Gail Egan and Simon Channing-Williams for Thin Man Films.
Int'l sales: Summit, (44) 20 7494 1724
Heart Of Fire (Ger-It-Aus) Dir: Luigi Falorni
Based on the international bestselling biography by former Eritrean child soldier Senait Mehari, Heart Of Fire marks Italian-born Falorni's first film since the surprise festival success of The Story Of The Weeping Camel. Senator Film has German rights.
Int'l sales: Beta Cinema, (49) 89 67 34 69 80
In Love We Trust (China) Dir: Wang Xiaoshuai
Xiaoshuai returns to the Berlinale (after winning the Silver Bear for Beijing Bicycle in 2001) with this family drama starring Liu Weiwei, Zhang Jiayi and Yu Nan. The film follows a mother's attempt to persuade her divorced husband to have another baby with her so the child's bone marrow can be used to save their leukemia-stricken daughter. Rights for France have been picked up by ARP.
Int'l sales: Films Distribution, (33) 1 53 10 33 99
I've Loved You So Long (Fr-Ger) Dir: Philippe Claudel
Screenwriter Claudel's first film as a director teams him with a top-notch cast including Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein who play sisters violently separated at a young age, and reunited after 15 years. UGC will release the film in France in March.
Int'l sales: UGC Int'l, (33) 46 40 44 00
Julia (Fr) Dir: Erick Zonca
Zonca's first film in English stars Tilda Swinton, Oscar-nominated for her role in Michael Clayton, as an alcoholic seductress forced to abduct an eight-year-old boy and abscond into Mexico.
Int'l sales: StudioCanal, (33) 1 71 35 35 35
Lady Jane (Fr) Dir: Robert Guediguian
Guediguian's thriller sees his regular cast - Ariane Ascaride, Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Gerard Meylan - play a gang of thieves who reunite when one of their children is kidnapped.
Int'l sales: Films Dist'n, (33) 1 53 10 33 99
Lake Tahoe (Mex) Dir: Fernando Eimbcke
The new $2m film by the director of Duck Season follows a boy (Diego Catano) coping with the death of his father. In 2004, Duck Season garnered 24 awards and 13 nominations. 'Duck Season's success made it easy to find the funds for Lake Tahoe and international buyers have already shown an interest,' says producer Christian Valdelievre.
Int'l sales: Funny Balloons, (33) 1 42 33 34 99
Night and Day (S Kor) Dir: Hong Sang-soo
Korean auteur Hong's latest sees a painter leave his wife and become infatuated with a student in Paris. Starring Kim Young-ho, Park Eun-hye and Hwang Soo-jung, the $1.2m drama was produced by b.o.m Film Productions (Woman On The Beach).
Int'l sales: b.o.m Film Productions, (82) 2 3445 6196
Restless (Isr-Ger-Can-Fr-Bel) Dir: Amos Kollek
Award-winning Israeli director Kollek returns to the Competition line-up, following 2002's Bridget, with this raw, tender film about a writer in New York who reunites with his son, who he abandoned in his native Israel.
Int'l sales: Bavaria Film International, (49) 89 64 99 26 87
Shine A Light (US, opening film) Dir: Martin Scorsese
Scorsese follows the Rolling Stones over the course of two concerts in New York in late 2006. Working with an impressive team of cinematographers including Robert Richardson, John Toll, Andrew Lesnie and Robert Elswit, the film features rare archive material and behind-the-scenes interviews. Paramount Vantage has US rights.
Int'l sales: Fortissimo Films, (31) 20 627 3215
The Song of Sparrows (Iran) Dir: Majid Majidi
When an ostrich farmer loses his job, he moves to the city where his life is transformed. Majidi has won several festival awards, including the jury prize at San Sebastian for Pedar in 1996.
Int'l sales: Majidi Film Productions, Tehran, www.cinemajidi.com
The Sparrow (HK-Ch) Dir: Johnnie To
A festival favourite with films such as Mad Detective and Exiled, To has been shooting the $3m The Sparrow for more than three years, working around more mainstream projects. Starring To regulars Simon Yam, Kelly Lin, Lam Ka Tung and Lam Suet, the film follows a group of pickpockets who encounter a mysterious woman who asks them to steal a key.
Int'l sales: Universe Films Distribution (852) 2437 2605
Standard Operating Procedure (US) Dir: Errol Morris
Morris' documentary examines the story behind the notorious ill-treatment of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
Int'l sales: Sony Pictures Classics, (1) 212 833 8842
Cherry Blossoms - Hanami (Ger) Dir: Doris Dorrie
Dorrie reunites with Olga Film, which produced her international hit Men more than 20 years ago. Inspired by the films of Ozu, Cherry Blossoms is a tragi-comic love story about a man travelling from Germany to Japan in search of his late wife's lost dreams.
Int'l sales: Bavaria Film International, (49) 89 64 99 26 87
OUT OF COMPETITION
Fireflies In The Garden (US) Dir: Dennis Lee
This semi-autobiographical drama focuses on a family torn apart by tragedy. Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds and Willem Defoe star in the film, which is produced by Senator International. Senator Film has German rights.
Int'l sales: Essential Entertainment, (1) 310 550 9100
The Other Boleyn Girl (US-UK) Dir: Justin Chadwick
Based on Philippa Gregory's novel, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson play the Boleyn sisters competing for the attention of Henry VIII (Eric Bana). The heavyweight partners behind the film include Ruby Films, Scott Rudin, BBC Films and Columbia Pictures/Focus Features. Sony is releasing internationally this month.
Int'l sales: Sony, (1) 310 244 7000
BERLINALE SPECIAL PROGRAMME
Eye To Eye - All About German Film... (Ger) Dirs: Hans Helmut Prinzler, Michael Althen
Contact: Transit Film, (49) 89 599 8850
Reverse Angle: Rebellion Of The Filmmakers (Ger) Dir: Dominik Wessely
Int'l sales: Kinowelt Int'l, (49) 341 355 960
Trip To Asia - The Quest For Harmony (Ger) Dir: Thomas Grube
Int'l sales: Boomtownmedia Int'l, (49) 30 264 80 550
The Chicken, The Fish And The King Crab (Sp)
Dir: Jose Luis Lopez Linares
Int'l sales: Weltvertrieb Latido Films, (91) 548 8877
Heaven's Heart (Swe-Den) Dir: Simon Staho
Int'l sales: Trust Film Sales, (45) 36 86 8788
Plus Tard Tu Comprendras (Fr-Ger) Dir: Amos Gitai
Int'l sales: Image et Compagnie, (33) 1 53 64 41 00
(selected world premieres)
Beautiful (S Kor) Dir: Jaihong Juhn
Feature directorial debut from Kim Ki-duk protege Jaihong Juhn, Beautiful is adapted from a story by Kim about an attractive woman who is raped, and who tries subsequently to ruin her looks. Starring Cha Soo-yeon and Lee Chan-hee, and co-produced by Kim Ki-duk Film and Sponge Entertainment.
Int'l sales: Sponge Entertainment, (82) 2 540 5132
Chiko (Ger) Dir: Ozgur Yildirim
Produced by Fatih Akin and Klaus Maeck's production outfit Corazon International, Yildirim's feature debut stars Denis Moschitto as a wannabe drug boss in Hamburg. Falcom Media releases the film in March.
Int'l sales: The Match Factory, (49) 221 292 1020
Coupable (Fr) Dir: Laetitia Masson
Masson returns to Berlin for the third time following 2000's Love Me and 1995's prize-winning En Avoir (Ou Pas) with this murder mystery starring Helene Fillieres and Jeremie Renier. Sales are commencing at the EFM.
Int'l sales: Rezo Films, (33) 1 42 46 40 82
Drifting Flowers (Tai) Dir: Zero Chou
Chou's follow up to Spider Lilies tells three interconnecting love stories over three generations. Lilies was a box-office hit last year, selling to 15 territories.
Int'l sales: Three Dots Entertainment, (886) 2 2777 5152
Filth And Wisdom (UK) Dir: Madonna
Madonna's directorial debut stars Richard E Grant and Stephen Graham alongside Eugene Hutz, frontman of gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, in what is described as 'a comedy-drama-musical-romance' about a Russian immigrant in London. Music video veteran Nicola Doring produces and Dan Cadan - a runner on past Guy Ritchie features - wrote the script.
Int'l sales: HSI London, (44) 207 437 3344
Jerusalema (S Afr) Dir: Ralph Ziman
Acclaimed South African film-maker Ziman, whose credits include The Zoo Keeper, takes an unwavering and stylised look at crime and corruption in the new South Africa.
Contact: MovieHouse Entertainment, firstname.lastname@example.org
Love And Other Crimes (Ger-Serb-Aust-Slov) Dir: Stefan Arsenijevic
Expectations are high for Arsenijevic's feature debut after numerous shorts, including the Golden Bear-winning and Oscar-nominated (A)Torsion. Set in the New Belgrade neighbourhood where he grew up, this drama, starring Anica Dobra and Vuk Kostic (both from The Trap), addresses the question of whether to emigrate or remain in present-day Serbia.
Int'l sales: The Match Factory, (49) 89 2000 120 50
What No One Knows (Den) Dir: Soren Kragh-Jacobsen
Kragh-Jacobsen returns to the Berlinale after earlier films The Island On Bird Street (1997) and Mifune (1999) both picked up Silver Bears at the festival. What No One Knows is a powerful thriller about the secrets of the Danish National Intelligence Bureau, starring Anders W Berthelsen and Maria Bonnevie.
Int'l sales: The Match Factory, (49) 89 2000 120 50
FORUM & GENERATIONS
(SELECTED WORLD PREMIERES)
Just Anybody (Le Premier Venu) (Fr-Bel) FORUM Dir: Jacques Doillon
Doillon's first film in five years is the story of a young woman who decides to forego the usual route to love and instead accept the first man who comes along. The $2m film stars Gerald Thomassin, Clementine Beaugrand and Guillaume Saurrel and is produced by Liaison Cinematographique and Artemis. Pyramide will release the film in France.
Int'l sales: Pyramide Int'l, (33) 1 42 96 02 20
Somers Town (UK) Dir: Shane Meadows
Meadows had planned to follow up his acclaimed This Is England with a short film about teenagers in the Kings Cross area of London. However the black-and-white project, scripted by frequent Meadows collaborator Paul Fraser, grew closer to feature length. Starring This Is England's Thomas Turgoose and Red Road's Kate Dickie, it tells the story of a Polish boy and his father who meet a runaway in London.
Int'l sales: The Works Int'l, (44) 20 7612 1080.
INTERNATIONAL OR EUROPEAN PREMIERES
Ballast (US) Dir: Lance Hammer
Int'l sales: Celluloid Dreams, (33) 1 4970 0370 (review, p38)
Be Kind Rewind (US, out of comp, closing film) Dir: Michel Gondry
Int'l dist: New Line Cinema, (1) 310 854 5811
Black Ice (Ger-Fin) Dir: Petri Kotwica
Int'l sales: Bavaria Film Int'l, (49) 89 64 99 26 87
The Elite Squad (Braz) Dir: Jose Padilha
Int'l sales: Zazen Producoes, (55 21) 25 35 54 06
Katyn (Pol, out of comp) Dir: Andrzej Wajda
Int'l sales: TUP, (48) 22 547 6139
Kabei - Our Mother (Jap) Dir: Yoji Yamada
Int'l sales: Shochiku, (81) 3 5550 1623
Quiet Chaos (It) Dir: Antonello Grimaldi
Int'l sales: Fandango Portobello Sales, (39) 06 9774 5011
There Will Be Blood (US) Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
Int'l dist: Paramount Pictures, (1) 323 8568 228