Berlin film festival looks east, hot topics in frame

Mon Feb 4, 2013 10:27am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - The Berlin film festival looks east this year with six of 19 competition entries either made or based behind the old Iron Curtain, while two star-studded U.S. movies tackle big business - energy and pharmaceuticals.

Iran's record on human rights will be in the frame during the two-week cinema showcase starting on February 7, while the Flintstones make way for "The Croods", a prehistoric family at the center of a new 3D animation from DreamWorks.

The annual Berlinale, now in its 63rd year, is one of Europe's most important film festivals, and alongside it runs a large-scale marketplace for trading new features and documentaries and discussing those under development.

While unable to attract the number of stars and blockbusters as similar events in Cannes and Toronto, Berlin is an early introduction each year to what global cinema has to offer and enjoys a reputation for tough films tackling hot topic issues.

"When you come into the New Year, it's important that there be a major international festival that lays the groundwork for the year," said Michael Barker, head of Sony Pictures Classics which has "Before Midnight" in Berlin.

"I don't think it's a conflict with the Oscars or with Sundance, because Sundance is a very different type of festival," he told Reuters, referring to the festival held in Utah in January that has a greater emphasis on U.S. cinema.

Eastern Europe is in the Berlin spotlight, with competition films from the region including "Child's Pose" which examines corruption and class in Romania through the story of a wealthy mother seeking to buy her convicted son his freedom.

"Harmony Lessons" is Kazakh filmmaker Emir Baigazin's feature drama debut, while "In the Name of..." from Poland broaches the sensitive topic of homosexuality in the Roman Catholic priesthood.   Continued...