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New China, Nazi past in focus Berlinale to showcase eye-opening films

BERLIN, Jan 29, (AFP): The Nazi terror in Europe and the dramatic transformation of contemporary China will dominate screens at next month’s Berlin international film festival, organisers said Tuesday. More than 400 new productions including star-driven Hollywood productions, gritty independent films and eye-opening documentaries will be shown at the 64th Berlinale, as the event is known. Festival director Dieter Kosslick said that as the final selection came together this month, a large number of films dealing with the Third Reich and China’s rapid changes emerged. “We have a programme that looks back at German history in the 30s and 40s and the Holocaust,” Kosslick, whose 11-day event marks the year’s first major cinema showcase in Europe, told reporters. “That wasn’t by design but there just happened to be a number of good films on the subject on offer.”

Rescue
George Clooney is due in town to present “The Monuments Men”, telling the true story of a team of US, British and French art experts who fought to rescue Europe’s cultural heritage from the Nazis during World War II. The opening film on February 6, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” by US director Wes Anderson and starring Ralph Fiennes, is based in part on the writings of Austrian novelist and playwright Stefan Zweig about the Europe he loved destroyed by war. “It opens in 1914 and covers a large arc until the arrival of the Nazis in 1933,” Kosslick said. “Only 12 years later the world lay in rubble and ashes.” German veteran Volker Schloendorff, who won an Oscar for the Hitler-era allegory “The Tin Drum”, will premiere “Diplomacy”, on how Paris was spared destruction by the Germans. The documentary “The Decent One”, based on the discovery in Israel of hundreds of private letters, notes and photographs that belonged to Hitler henchman Heinrich Himmler, will also be screened. And “Memory of the Camps”, a film newly completed by the British Imperial War Museum using footage taken at the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, is also on the programme.

Project
Alfred Hitchcock served as an advisor on the project, which was intended to confront Germans with their guilt but ended up vanishing into the archives. A documentary on that backstory, “Night Will Fall”, will also be shown in Berlin. Kosslick said three of the 20 productions vying for the festival’s Golden Bear top prize came from China. A far cry from Wong Kar Wai’s spectacular martial arts epic “The Grandmaster”, which opened the Berlinale last year, the three productions are smaller budget fare “set away from the glittering cities of Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai,” Kosslick said. “These are stories told with the help of genres and come from a new generation of filmmakers,” he said. The thriller “Black Coal, Thin Ice” by Diao Yinan is about a cop investigating serial murders who learns that all the victims are linked to the same woman. “Blind Massage” by Shanghai-born Lou Ye is a novel adaptation about visually impaired massage therapists, while Ning Hao’s “No Man’s Land” is set on a lawless highway and offers a bleak look at Chinese society’s outsiders.

Revealed
Kosslick also revealed a last-minute entry by cinema legend Martin Scorsese: a documentary about The New York Review of Books, an institution of US literary life, that will be shown as a work in progress. US producer James Schamus (“The Ice Storm”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) will head up the jury handing out the prizes on February 15, before the festival wraps up the following day with screenings of its biggest hits.

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