Strong Korean Showing at Berlin Film Fest

    February 08, 2007 08:43

    The 57th Berlin Film Festival -- one of the world’s three major film events along with those in Cannes and Venice -- opens Thursday and runs to Feb. 18. A total of 373 movies from around the world will be screened during the 10 day run.

    While director Park Chan-wook’s “I’m a Cyborg, But That’s O.K.” will show in the competition section, several more Korean films will screen in non-competitive categories, including “Woman on the Beach” by Hong Sang-soo, “Dasepo Naughty Girls” by E J-yong, “No Regret” by Leesong Hee-il, “Ad Lib Night” by Lee Yoon-ki and “Like a Virgin” by Lee Hae-young and Lee Hae-jun.

    American and European masters in documentary and experimental film like Michael Snow, Jacques Rivette, Jiri Menzel and Frederick Wiseman are also planning to show new works in Berlin. Director Arthur Penn, whose “Bonnie & Clyde” was a seminal film of the 1960s, will be awarded the Honorary Golden Bear homage for his achievements. Also on the schedule is a digitally-restored edition of the 15-hour film “Berlin Alexanderplatz” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, considered one of Germany's greatest filmmakers.

    Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick said that many of this year’s movies deal with the tragedy and terror of World War II and the impacts of globalization. The era immediately following the war is brought into focus in “The Good German” by Steven Soderbergh, “The Good Shepherd” by Robert De Niro and “The Counterfeiters” by Stefan Ruzowitzky. Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima” will also screen in a non-competitive category.

    Meanwhile, Chinese directors are bringing movies that depict the reactions to and impacts of globalization.

    The Chinese film “Lost in Beijing” from director Yu Li was allowed into the festival after 15 minutes of gambling and sex were nipped at the prompting of Chinese inspectors. Last year, director Ye Lou was sentenced to a five-year ban on filmmaking by Chinese authorities after he rejected inspectors’ demands to cut some “outrageous” scenes from his film "Summer Palace" before he screened the love story at the Cannes International Film Festival.

    A female North Korean defector living in Mongolia is at the center of the storyline in the Korean-French production “Hyazgar” or “Desert Dream” by Zhang Lu, a Chinese of Korean ethnic background. Zhang Lu won recognition for his earlier film “Grain in Ear.” Korea and China are the only Asian countries represented in the competition category in Berlin this year, while European and American films dominate.

    Some critics argue that the Berlin Film Festival favors politically or socially controversial Asian films, with an occasional nod to an oddball -- unwitting testimony, they say, to the organizers' double standards and fragmented views on Asian movies. But it is too early to know how this year's festival will go, of course, and precise judgment will be possible only after all the films have been screened.

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