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Established 1995 filmfestivals.com serves and documents relentless the festivals community, offering 92.000 articles of news, free blog profiles and functions to enable festival matchmaking with filmmakers.

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Berlin Jury shook by desertions as Bier and Bonnaire go awol

The star-studded international competition judgment panel under the baton of celebrated Greco-French director Constantine Costa-Gavras was reduced to a Sextet when Danish ace director, Susan Bier, and top drawer French actress, Sandrine Bonnaire, both announced their enforced withdrawal from jury duty due to inescapable commitments elsewhere. In Bier's case it was a sudden need to visit the location of the next movie she’s shooting, while Bonnaire submitted her regrets due to "personal family reasons". At this late date no suitable replacements can be found for the defectors, so the 58th Berlin jury will have to hobble along on the six remaining pairs of legs which belong, respectively, to Costa-Gavras, German actress Diane Kruger, Taiwanese actress, Shu Qi, who is one of the biggest stars in Asia, multiple Academy Award winning sound designer, Walter Murch ("Apocalypse Now" among his many Coppola collaborations), hot-shot Russian producer, Alexander Rodnyansky, and leading German production designer (i.e., art director), Uli Hanisch.
Forty years old, sensitive and intelligent, Sandrine Bonnaire is one of France’s most sought after actresses, especially by top directors for serious roles. She first came to international attention in Michel Deville’s “Mr. Hire” in which she befriended a serial killer, (Michel Blanc), and among her numerous international awards, she shared a Best actress prize at Venice with Isabelle Huppert for Chabrol’s shocker, “La Ceremonie”, in 1985. Sandrine has also directed a film, “Elle s'appelle Sabine” about her autistic sister, which is on view here in the Talent Campus section. Susan Bier has directed twelve features in Denmark since 1991 but really scored internationally with her semi Dogma film, “Open Hearts”, 2002, and her “After the Wedding” which traveled the festival circuit far and wide in 2006 and was a Best Foreign Language Film nominee at the last Academy Awards in Hollywood.
Svelte blonde German actress Diane Kruger comes from a background of ballet and modeling, but was an unknown until cast as Helen of Troy by Wolfgang Petersen in “Troy”, 2004, alongside Brad Pitt, after which she has worked steadily in Hollywood, currently opposite Nicolas Cage in “The National Treasure, Book of Secrets”. She also turned in a more than credible job as Beethoven’s secretary opposite Ed Harris in Agnieszka Holland’s highly romanticized but captivating Ludwig van biopic “Copying Beethoven” in 2006.
This year’s Berlin Jury chairman, Costa-Gavras, hardly needs any introduction having been a mainstay of politically engaged cinema ever since “The Sleeping Car Murders” of 1965. Among the highlights of his career one can mention “Z”, the political thriller of 1969 about the Greek Military Junta, which was perhaps Yves Montand’s most significant role ever and won two Oscars, and “Missing”, 1982, about the Pinochet takeover in Chile, which won a Golden Palm (best picture) at Cannes and earned Jack Lemon a Cannes best actor distinction as well. In 1990 Gavras took a Golden Bear, top film prize, home from Berlin for “Music Box”, a Holocaust investigation tale in which a lawyer, Jessica Lange, defends her own father, Armin Mueller-Stahl, accused of being a notorious war criminal, and finds out things she would rather not have known. Gavras was here again in 2002 with the hard-hitting and under-rated “Amen” which tells the story of papal collusion in the German mass murder of the Jews. The poster for that film, showing a cross and a Swastika intertwined, was even more controversial than the film itself. In short, Costa-Gavras is no stranger to this long-running festival. An interesting sidelight on the this Grecian born director’s name: He was actually born in Greece in 1933 with the name of Konstantinos Gavras, which is a little long for a movie marquee, so he just took the short form of his first name, “Kostas” and hooked it on to the family name thus yielding the nice aristocratic sounding name under which he is now generally known. But then, Hollywood has long been known to distort names much further than that, for example, Leo Jacoby to “Lee J. Cobb” or Julius Garfinkle to “John Garfield”.
At prestige festivals such as Berlin, one of the cornerstone’s of the festival’s cachet is the snaring of big names or glamorous stars for the panel which is to decide on which films and which artists will get what at the end of the ten day carnival. Losing two top liners in one day was a bit of a shock for openers but will probably be a forgotten tremor by the time golden and silver bears day rolls around a week hence. Still, I’ve often wondered what really goes on behind closed festival jury doors and wonder how come nobody has ever thought of making a film about a film festival jury called “Eight Competing Egos” -- or something like that.
The most interesting press conference here on Day Number Six was white bearded elfin British director Mike Leigh here to defend his latest dissertation on the plain people of Britain, “Happy Go Lucky”. This is much lighter fare than his last film, “Vera Drake”, which was an Oscar nominee, and is basically a comedy revolving about a charming feisty young lady who works as a school teacher in North London. The director was accompanied by his two lead actors, Sally Watkins and Eddie Marsan. Mr. Leigh is extremely articulate in explaining his intentions and the way he works and is most adept at turning long-winded stupid questions inside-out and upside-down. One pressman got up and started insinuating that since Mike has a lot of people with bad intentions in his films, doesn’t this reflect some deep seated melancholy in the director himself… to which Mr. Leigh replied, in a most academic manner, “Well, first of all I can’t accept the premises of the question you are trying to formulate ...”, and then went on to essentially decimate the poor guy verbally. If you have a case against a Mike Leigh film you better get yourself a pretty good lawyer because Mike Leigh is not one to try to mess with in verbal games.
Tomorrow the Madonna film, “Filth and Wisdom” will be having its Berlin premiere, to befollowed by a press conference – and,who knows – maybe Louise Veronica Ciccone, la Donna from Bay City Michigan, will show upin the flesh to explain and exclaim …with maybe a song and a dance?
by Alex Deleon


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