Berlin film festival needs hits after several misses

Tue Feb 12, 2008 1:56pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - Film festivals pride themselves on discovering cinematic gems from around the world that the public would never see otherwise.

The fact that at the half-way stage of this year's Berlin Film Festival the frontrunner for prizes was a major Hollywood production with eight Oscar nominations to its name was a discouraging sign, critics said.

"There Will Be Blood," starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a scheming oil prospector, was favorite for the Golden Bear award for best film after 11 of 21 competition films had screened.

"Everyone is raving about 'There Will Be Blood', but it's already out in the United States," said Lee Marshall, film critic for trade publication Screen International.

"I can see that for (festival director Dieter) Kosslick it is a difficult juggling act, and it's great to have an Oscar-nominated film in competition as it gets people talking, but it goes against the discovery remit."

Jay Weissberg of Variety agreed, and argued that Berlin lacked the buzz of other festivals and other years.

"Everybody is saying that there's nothing to get excited about," he said. "Of course every festival has good and bad years, so it does not mean Berlin is going down, but unfortunately this has not been a good year."

Critics noted several of the 21 films in competition were not world premieres, meaning the excitement surrounding them had come and gone. Of those that were first showings, many had been disappointing, they added.   Continued...

<p>Penelope Cruz and Ben Kingsley pose during a photocall to present their film 'Elegy' running in the competition at the 58th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, February 10, 2008. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>