Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep are among the stars flying in for this month’s Berlin Film Festival, bringing political movies to an event that promises to mix a dash of Hollywood glamour with hard-hitting, topical themes.
Prisoners on death row, victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and anti-government protesters who suffered police brutality in Italy and Egypt will come to life on screens across Berlin from Feb. 9 to Feb. 19. One documentary explores the work of the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei; several movies address political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa.
“There are a lot of films about revolutions and new dawns,” Dieter Kosslick, the festival’s director, said at a news conference to announce the program. “There’s a focus on people protesting to get rid of old, stale regimes.”
Jolie’s debut film as director, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” is about the war in Bosnia and features actors who experienced it first-hand. Streep, who received her 17th Oscar nomination -- she won twice -- for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” will accept an honorary Golden Bear for her life’s work. The Thatcher biopic is one of seven movies showing in Streep’s honor.
Opening the festival is “Farewell My Queen,” a French drama featuring the last 24 hours in Marie Antoinette’s life, as she faces the guillotine. Starring Diane Kruger, it is one of 18 films competing for the Golden Bear for best film.
Others include “Jayne Mansfield’s Car,” directed by Billy Bob Thornton and set during the Vietnam War; “Just the Wind,” a Hungarian movie about the persecution faced by Roma and Sinti gypsies; and “White Deer Plain,” a Chinese epic that sweeps through the country’s history, directed by Wang Quan’an.
The international jury choosing the winners is led by the U.K. director Mike Leigh and includes actors Charlotte Gainsbourg and Jake Gyllenhaal and the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, winner of last year’s Golden Bear award for “Nader and Simin -- A Separation.”
Among the high-profile movies showing out of competition or in the “Berlinale Special” series are “Haywire,” Steven Soderbergh’s martial-arts action movie starring Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, and Michael Douglas; and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. Directed by Stephen Daldry and based on the book by Jonathan Safran Foer, it is a nominee for this year’s best-picture Oscar.
Robert Pattinson, the teen idol who stars in the “Twilight” vampire-movie series, will be in Berlin to promote his new film, an adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s novel “Bel Ami.” Pattison’s character is a scoundrel who rises through the ranks of 19th-century Parisian society by manipulating and seducing a series of women. The female roles are taken by Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Christina Ricci.
Kosslick warned that as well as Pattinson, Shah Rukh Khan probably will attract large crowds of female fans. The Indian heartthrob is showing “Don -- The King is Back.” The Berlinale website has a list of frequently asked questions for Khan’s fans, presumably to avoid a deluge of inquiries.
“Can I contribute artistically in order to enrich the screenings or the appearance of Shah Rukh Khan?” is one such query. “Unfortunately we are unable to integrate such contributions due to organizational reasons” is the festival response.
The Egyptian film “Reporting a Revolution,” directed by Bassam Mortada, follows six journalists on the frontline during 18 days of anti-regime protests in 2011. “In the Shadow of a Man,” directed by Hanan Abdalla, has four women giving their views of a potential new society.
Spanish actor Javier Bardem will speak to the audience after the screening of a film he has produced -- a documentary called “Sons of the Clouds, the Last Colony,” directed by Alvaro Longoria. It tells the story of a forgotten colonial war in the western Sahara and its abandoned victims.
The German director Werner Herzog will screen his four-part series of documentaries called “Death Row” portraying criminals in the U.S. awaiting execution. Kevin Macdonald’s portrait of the Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley will also premiere at the Friedrichstadt-Palast in central Berlin.
Tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m. For more information, go to http://www.berlinale.de/en/HomePage.html.
(Catherine Hickley writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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