The bears are back in town! The 63rd Berlinale Film Festival (February 7-17) promises some terrific cinema and a stellar cast of stars. Nineteen directors are in the running for the coveted gold and silver bears. Dedicated fans can also look forward to a plethora of films from around the world, stories that touch the heart and committed political cinema.
This year's Berlinale jury comprises of the great and the good of the silver screen. Its president is Hong Kong native, director Wong Kar-Wai. His latest film, "The Grandmaster," kicks off the competition, but, understandably, won't be in the running. Other jury members include director Susanne Bier (Denmark), Andreas Dresen (Germany) and Shirin Neshat (Iran).
The latest work by the Iranian director Jafar Panahi is hotly anticipated. In 2010, Panahi was sentenced to six years imprisonment. He hasn't yet served his sentence, but he was also imposed with a 20-year ban on filmmaking. His new motion picture, "Parde" (Closed Curtain), was produced together with Kamboziya Partovi.
This year's Berlinale is decorated with a cluster of Hollywood stars. New releases from superstar American directors such as Steven Soderbergh and Gus Van Sant will be screened at the festival. The red carpet will also welcome some of Hollywood's biggest names, including Matt Damon (pictured here in Gus van Sant's "Promised Land").
Dieter Kosslick has directed the Berlinale for over 10 years. Under his leadership, the festival has grown in both size and popularity, though Kosslick's early attempts to develop the artistic direction of the festival were met with a barrage of criticism. The Berlinale is one of the world's most important film festivals, and indisputably so.
A selection of films exploring the issue of globalization will be showcased throughout the competition. Like "Night Train to Lisbon," based on the novel by the Swiss author Pascal Mercier. The international cast includes German actress Martina Gedeck and British actor Jeremy Irons. Sweden's Billie August directed the film.
Germany is represented at this year's festival with Thomas Arslan's film "Gold." Several other films are also German co-productions. South African born director Pia Marais studied filmmaking in Berlin. Her third feature film, "Layla Fourie," tells the story of a young single mother in modern-day South Africa.
The Berlinale "Forum" is one of the most important components of the festival's program. It's where less commercially driven films from around the world are given space to shine. Many of them tell stories of social need and economic hardship. Elina Psykou's "The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas," will be there representing young Greek cinema.
The "Panorama" section of the program showcases films from nations outside of the mainstream moviemaking industry and includes a number of documentaries. The international co-production, "A World Not Ours," directed by Mahdi Fleifel (Denmark), was shot in Arabic and English and offers a glimpse of life in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon.
A special element of the 2013 Berlinale will focus on the stories of indigenous people from around the world. Entitled "NATIVe - A Journey into Indigenous Cinema," the select series includes films from Oceania, Australia, North America and the Arctic. The Australian film "Ngangkari," for example, examines traditional medicine in Aboriginal communities.
People with a passion for film history will not be disappointed. The grand Berlinale Retrospective, this year entitled "The Weimar Touch. The International Influence of Weimar Cinema after 1933," includes oldies such as "Glückskinder" ("Children of Fortune," pictured) - one of few German films made after 1933 to forgo the stylistic traits of Nazi cinema.
A group of young people are set to judge films in the series "Generation K+" and "14+," showcasing films produced for children and a youth audience. This particular section of the festival has always been a hit with visitors to the Berlinale. Exploring family conflicts, growing up and death, the Japanese film "Capturing Dad" by Ryota Nakano is sure to impress.
Under Dieter Kosslick's directorship, the Berlinale has traditionally centered on German cinema. For a few years now, the series "Perspektive Deutsches Kino" has focused on emerging German filmmaking talent in the form of movie shorts, documentaries and feature-length films. "DeAD" by Sven Halfars is a trash caper about a young man's search for his father.
Up on last year, a total of 404 films will be shown during the festival. Providing they secure tickets, audiences will be able to attend 1,000 screenings. As a sign of the times, only a small proportion of this year's films arrived on reels - most of the Berlinale is now digitalized.
One of the most successful innovations at last year's festival was "Berlinale Goes Kiez." Many of Berlin's local cinemas are now part of the festival, giving cinema-goers a better chance to see Berlinale films. Traditional movie theaters in the center of town, like the Delphi (pictured), will be screening a selection of films from the festival when the curtain goes up on February 7.
Calling all film fans! Here's our round-up of all you need to know about the hotly anticipated Berlin International Film Festival 2013 (February 7-17).