Berlin film fest gets into swing

The Berlin film festival opens Thursday with the world premiere of “Django”, a biopic about Gypsy-jazz great Django Reinhardt focused on the little-known story of his family’s persecution by the Nazis, reports, Berlin
The French production is one of 18 movies vying for the coveted Golden Bear, which will be awarded February 18 by a jury led by Hollywood director Paul Verhoeven (“RoboCop”, “Elle”). “Django” marks the directorial debut of Etienne Comar, a screenwriter and producer behind hits such as “Of Gods and Men” and “My King” and co-producer of the award-winning film about radical Islam “Timbuktu”. A virtuoso guitarist and composer who shot to global renown with his delicate melodies, Reinhardt was a member of the Sinti minority and was forced to flee German-occupied Paris in 1943. Festival director Dieter Kosslick called the movie a “poignant tale of survival”. “It is also a wonderful story about a man who created his own world… in which the greatness of his music allowed us to forget the circumstances under which it was born,” he said. The film stars Reda Kateb, who appeared with Viggo Mortensen in the Algeria-set war drama “Far From Men”. Comar told AFP that Reinhardt’s tragic aspect comes from being a “character blinded by his music, who doesn’t see the world changing, in which the war sneaks up on him and only then does he finally see what is happening.”
The 11-day Berlinale, Europe’s first major cinema showcase of the year, will screen nearly 400 movies from 70 countries. It is the only big festival that opens all its featured movies to the public. Movie buffs camped out overnight Monday to nab the first tickets as they went on sale. Hollywood actor Stanley Tucci (“The Devil Wears Prada”) will unveil his new biopic about Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti, “Final Portrait” starring Australian Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush. While in town, Gere will also meet with Angela Merkel to discuss his long-running work on the campaign for Tibetan rights, following talks the German chancellor held last year with George Clooney and his human rights lawyer wife Amal about Europe’s refugee influx. “There is nothing that those who owe their power to playing on vague fears and base instincts are more intimidated by than the powers of art: to move people, break taboos and silence, and awaken a desire for a better world,” Culture Minister Monika Gruetters said. Last year the Golden Bear went to Italian refugee documentary “Fire at Sea” from a jury led by Meryl Streep. It is nominated for an Academy Award this month.