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Filmfest Hamburg to line up 142 films from 42 countries

A selection of outstanding films from all over the world will once again be presented as German, European or world premieres in Hamburg from 24th September to 3rd October 2009. Following the announcement of the film selections for New Zealand Deluxe, young Turkish cinema and the Focus "Vibrant Metropolises", the 17th Filmfest Hamburg now discloses further programme highlights. 142 films from 42 countries have been confirmed. Characterized by its broad spectrum of films from high-quality cinema to international glamour, the international Filmfest Hamburg presents both famous names and unusual discoveries alike. These include US American directing icon Woody Allen and the Chinese Locarno-winner Xiaolu Guo.

Filmfest Director Albert Wiederspiel is very pleased at "being able to put on more screenings than ever before. This way we are offering the audience an opportunity to see even more films." Besides a strong presence of female directors, there is also a noticeable trend in content: "many of the stories tell of very personal, individual fates from the most diverse microcosms. In doing so, the films stay very close to their protagonists and are characterized by a high level of intimacy," says Head of Programme Kathrin Kohlstedde.

An outlook of this year's Filmfest programme:

Agenda 09
This year's Locarno-winner Xiaolu Guo is represented with two of her films. The documentary "Once Upon a Time Proletarian - 12 Tales of a Country" (China) is a subjective analysis of modern China, told in twelve chapters. Darkly poetic, the film shows seemingly trivial occurrences, despairing souls, lonely youth and casts an unadorned, critical glance at a country in upheaval and a generation with an uncertain future. Guo's second film, running in the "Northern Lights" section, is the Hamburg co-production "She, a Chinese" (Germany, Great Britain, France), which was awarded a Golden Leopard.

Gabriele Salvatores, director of the much-praised "I'm Not Scared" is represented with his new feature film "As God Commands" (Italy). After the novel by Niccoló Ammanitis, the film tells of teenager Cristiano, who adores his father, a brutal Nazi. When their mutual friend, the slightly handicapped Quattro, confuses Cristiano's girlfriend with his dream woman, this leads to a terrible murder. Almost raw in its directness, this father-son story confronts the audience with a visual language of violence, unequalled in modern European cinema.

Woody Allen goes "back to the roots" with his new film "Whatever Works" (USA), i.e. back to his hometown of New York. It provides the setting for this warm-hearted comedy about the eccentric quantum physicist Yellnikof, who gets by as a chess teacher after failing to win the Nobel Prize and after the break-up of his marriage. When the young runaway Melody moves in with him, his world turns topsy-turvy. A film with a critical stance towards America, featuring that classic Allen touch and using every opportunity for fulminant sweeping blows.

At the centre of the film "Applause" (Denmark) stands Thea, a theatre actress driven by talents and desires, who not only wrestles with her role in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe" on stage every night, but also struggles against her alcohol addiction and for the custody of her two children. The film's star, Paprika Steen ("Festen", "Mifune", "Fear Me Not"), will be attending the premiere of Martin Pieter Zandvliet's feature film in Hamburg.

In "The Last Days of Emma Blank" (Belgium/Netherlands) Alex van Warmerdam unfolds an absurd game of reality and fantasy: this bizarre comedy centres on a dictatorial old woman in need of care. Living in her country home, she drives her servants insane with strange orders - until they realize that they will never inherit any of her fortune. A wonderfully alacritous film in which nothing is at it seems.

"The White Meadow" (Iran) by Mohammad Rasoulof, who won the Hamburg Film Critics' Prize at the 2005 Filmfest Hamburg for "Iron Island", is a visually stunning fairy tale: the story of an old tear collector and his stowaway passenger, a boy in search of his father, is a simply told metaphorical cinematic journey through white saline worlds and human fates.

The documentary thriller "The Cove" (USA) by Louie Psihoyos features Ex-TV-"Flipper"-trainer Richard, a.k.a. Ric O'Barry, fighting against the brutal misuse of dolphins by the international entertainment industry. The "Sundance"-winner has a lot of potential to become the audience's favourite.

The documentary "All Tomorrow's Parties" (Great Britain) by Jonathan Caouette and "Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB" (USA) by Mandy Stein make musical history almost tangible: Caouette, who won many awards for his first documentary "Tarnation", uses camcorder and mobile phone video recordings to document the success story of the unique All Tomorrow's Parties Festival, whose line-up is compiled by a different musician every year. Stein uses archive material, photos, old and new interviews to create a portrait of the legendary New York punk club CBGB, which essentially founded musical phenomena like punk and new wave.

eurovisuell
The World War II action film "Max Manus" (Norway/Denmark/Germany) by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg follows the title hero, a Norwegian resistance fighter, from the outbreak of World War II to the summer of 1945. The second feature film by the successful adverting film directing couple known as "Roenberg" is not only Norway's most expensive film production of all times, but also its most successful: more than one million people saw the film within the first six weeks.

Voilà!
Based on the book "Coco & Igor" by Chris Greenhalgh, "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky" (France/Japan) by Jan Kounen carries the audience into 1910s and 1920s Paris. Equipped with an extraordinary production value and a grandiose soundtrack, the film tells the tale of the passionate love affair of two creative giants, the fashion icon Coco Chanel and the married Russian composer Igor Stravinsky.

Vitrina
A broken relationship, a worn-out pop idol, a Scandinavian tourist and a whole collection of insects make up the ingredients of "Tourists" (Chile), which ran very successfully at the festivals in Los Angeles and Rotterdam. Alicia
Scherson's second feature film is a nimble yet deep portrayal of emotional disasters and demonstrates what all of us essentially are in life: tourists.

Northern Lights
Besides Fatih Akin's "Soul Kitchen" and Xiaolu Guo's "She, a Chinese", which depicts the long path of a young woman, lusting for life, from a Chinese village to the West, the section on films from Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein also contains "Eyes Wide Open" (Israel/Germany/France) by Haim Tabakman. The cautious, though intense, drama approaches an absolute taboo: homosexual love in the orthodox community of Jerusalem. When the deeply religious butcher Aaron, family man and an accomplished member of the community, falls in love with a man, he is subjected to immense societal pressure and must decide between his love and his faith.

The 17th Filmfest Hamburg takes place from 24th September - 3rd October 2009 in the cinemas Abaton Kino, Cinemaxx Dammtor, Metropolis Kino, 3001 Kino and Zeise Kinos.

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Chatelin Bruno
(Filmfestivals.com)

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