BERLIN (Reuters) - Madonna and the Rolling Stones jostle for attention on the red carpet at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, an 11-day, music-heavy movie marathon that kicks off on Thursday.
In between songs will be hard-hitting films from the real world, including a documentary about the Abu Ghraib prison abuses in Iraq and a feature on child soldiers in Eritrea.
Opening the annual event is the world premiere of “Shine a Light,” Martin Scorsese’s documentary about veteran British band the Rolling Stones based on footage from two concerts in New York in 2006 as well as archive material.
Having Mick Jagger and Scorsese at the glittering first night is a coup for festival director Dieter Kosslick, who has struggled to secure strong opening films in the past.
“Shine a Light” is not in the main festival competition, and so is not eligible for prizes at the awards ceremony on February 16 including the coveted Golden Bear for best film.
Madonna’s film “Filth and Wisdom” is also out of the main competition, but the queen of pop’s directorial debut is bound to draw comparisons — flattering or otherwise — with her director husband Guy Ritchie.
Kosslick said recently that Madonna had written to ask him to include her film in the lineup.
“I don’t know Madonna personally, but I’ve never before received a card from someone who said: ‘Dear Dieter, if you like my film, I’d love it to be screened in Berlin, yours, Madonna.’ Obviously, that really impressed me.”
In addition to rock royalty, organizers will be hoping for a smattering of Hollywood A-listers whose attendance is crucial to the success of Europe’s first big film festival of the year.
Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, Penelope Cruz and Daniel Day-Lewis are all due to attend.
Continuing the musical theme will be “Patti Smith: Dream of Life,” a portrait of the singer and poet, and “Bananaz,” the “definitive” documentary about British indie band Gorillaz.
“Heavy Metal in Baghdad” is about an Iraqi band which played only a handful of concerts due to the violence and fled to Turkey after receiving death threats from insurgent groups.
Also dealing with events in Iraq is “Standard Operating Procedure” by U.S. director Errol Morris, an examination of the abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison which turned into an international scandal.
Polish honorary Oscar winner Andrzej Wajda presents “Katyn,” about the mass execution of Polish officers ordered by the Soviet authorities in 1940.
Several films deal with the Middle East, including “Shahida - Brides of Allah” about women involved in suicide bombings in Israel, and “Lemon Tree” which tells the story of a Palestinian woman’s decision to take on the Israeli authorities.
Editing by Paul Casciato