Star-packed Berlin film fest promises laughs in dark times

Star-packed Berlin film fest promises laughs in dark times

BERLIN – Agence France-Presse
Star-packed Berlin film fest promises laughs in dark times

Penelope Cruz, Hugh Jackman, Catherine Deneuve, Richard Gere and Robert Pattinson are among the high-wattage stars due on the red carpet at the Berlin film festival, organizers said on Jan. 31 as they revealed the lineup.

The 67th Berlinale is the first major cinema showcase in Europe each year and presents nearly 400 productions from around the world.  

The 11-day event will kick off in the German capital on Feb. 9 with the world premiere of the French biopic “Django” about Gypsy-jazz great Django Reinhardt and his family’s persecution in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Eighteen films will vie for the Golden Bear top prize, which last year went to harrowing Italian refugee documentary “Fire at Sea” from a jury led by Meryl Streep.

This year, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven will lead the seven-member jury, including U.S. actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Mexican actor and director Diego Luna. Berlinale chief Dieter Kosslick told reporters that the event, known as the most politically minded of Europe’s top festivals, would shine a light on what he called dark times in the West.

“The program we have put together features films that deal with themes of courage and confidence and do it with a whole lot of humor,” he said. “You never know what is going to be happening in the world when you start assembling the lineup, but it’s as if the filmmakers were able to look into the future and see current developments. But despite all the turmoil in the world, it’s an upbeat program.” 

In keeping with its long post-war tradition, the festival will mix arthouse cinema from European veterans including Poland’s Agnieszka Holland, Britain’s Sally Potter, Germany’s Volker Schloendorff, previous Golden Bear winner Calin Peter Netzer of Romania and Aki Kaurismaki of Finland with popcorn fare.

The latest Wolverine instalment of the X-Men superhero series, “Logan,” starring Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Richard E. Grant, will have its world premiere in Berlin while “T2: Trainspotting,” the sequel to the drug-fueled Scottish cult classic, will get a gala screening.

Potter, one of four women directors in competition, has pulled together a cast including Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Kristin Scott Thomas and Timothy Spall for the comedy “The Party” set in a house in present-day London.

Gere stars with Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, Rebecca Hall and Chloe Sevigny in the thriller “The Dinner” by U.S. director Oren Moverman, an adaptation of the Dutch novel by Herman Koch.

Cruz joins Mandy Patinkin in the Spanish production “The Queen of Spain,” which is set in the 1950s under fascist dictator Francisco Franco. The film will be screened in the Berlinale Special sidebar section.

The French production “The Midwife” by Martin Provost stars Deneuve as the mysterious former mistress of the title character’s father. Pattinson is also due in Berlin for a screening of James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z,” an adaptation of a bestseller by David Grann of the New Yorker.