BERLIN (Reuters) - The Berlin film festival turns 60 this year, and a host of Hollywood stars will walk the red carpet over the next 10 days to mark the anniversary.
One who will not is Roman Polanski, whose latest movie “The Ghost Writer” has its world premiere at the event on Friday but who is under house arrest in a Swiss chalet.
Organizers are hoping that A-listers like Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, jury member Renee Zellweger and Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan make up for his absence and ensure 2010 is a success after criticism of the quality of recent editions.
The opening film, kicking off a crush of screenings, interviews, parties and dealmaking in Berlin, is Chinese movie “Apart Together” directed by Wang Quan’an who won the best film Golden Bear in 2007 for “Tuya’s Marriage.”
Apart Together follows a group of aging ex-soldiers of the National People’s Party who get permission to return to the mainland from Taiwan for the first time since they were forced to retreat to the island in 1949.
Lui Yansheng is not going back to see family members like the others, however, but to seek out his long-lost love and their son who was born after he fled over 50 years earlier.
The Ghost Writer premieres on Friday, and Polanski’s arrest in September means media interest in the political thriller starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan will be intense.
Polanski, the 76-year-old Oscar-winning maker of classics such as “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” is now fighting extradition to the United States to face sentencing over a 1977 case of unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.
Polanski reportedly put the finishing touches to the film based on a Robert Harris novel while in jail, and the fictional former British prime minister played by Brosnan is widely understood to be based on Tony Blair.
Another triumph for festival director Dieter Kosslick is Scorsese’s Cold War-era “Shutter Island,” which is not in competition but will enjoy all the exposure of the red carpet, news conferences and interviews.
Also based on a novel, this time by Dennis Lehane, the movie stars DiCaprio as a U.S. marshal who is called to investigate the strange disappearance of a multiple murderer from a maximum security psychiatric clinic.
Kosslick must balance attracting big stars to the red carpet with championing experimental, low-budget cinema from around the globe. The volume of business done at the accompanying European Film Market is also essential to Berlin’s prospects.
Other U.S. films among the hundreds of movies showcased in Berlin include “Greenberg,” starring Ben Stiller, and British director Michael Winterbottom brings “The Killer Inside Me,” a movie starring Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson which drew criticism at the Sundance film festival for its graphic violence.
Another major star set to draw crowds in Berlin is Khan, who presents “My Name Is Khan” about an Indian Muslim and his experiences in the United States just after the 9/11 attacks.
A second picture examining Muslims’ experiences in the West is “Shahada,” which follows three young people living in Berlin who struggle to live within their system of beliefs.
And “On the Path” portrays a Bosnian couple whose relationship is tested when the man seeks solace with a group of Muslims belonging to the strict Wahhabi school of Islam.
The festival awards ceremony takes place on February 20.