Multiculturalism and anti-racism were very consciously the dominant themes last night at the opening festivities of the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival (through Feb. 22).

The tone was set when gay cult helmer Rosa von Praunheim, dressed head-to-toe in pink satin, entered the main venue, Zoo Palast cinema, bearing signs proclaiming directors’ solidarity against the extreme right-wing violence that has plagued Germany since unification (which reportedly caused some invited guests to have second thoughts about attending the event).

Fest director Moritz de Haldeln made a nod to von Praunheim’s gesture in his opening speech.

Further anti-racist messages were conveyed by Berlin deputy mayor Ingrid Bergmann-Pohl and the wife of the German interior minister. The minister, Rudolf Seiters, was absent from the ceremony because of the German jet hijacking yesterday.

‘Arizona Dream’ opens fest

Opening pic, well-received by the crowd, was Emir Kusturica’s “Arizona Dream, ” toplining Jerry Lewis, Faye Dunaway and Johnny Depp.

Crowd at the post-screening party seemed thinner than in previous years, with food leaning more toward the vegetarian, a probable effect of Berlin’s budget constraints this year.

New venue

The festival abandoned the West Berlin hotel that has traditionally hosted the event for a venue in the eastern sector of the city.

Although the fest came through with well-organized transportation, there was griping over what many viewed as an unnecessary amount of schlepping.

The good news on the cross-town travel front was an announcement made opening night that beginning next year, the festival facilities at the Cine Center will be expanded, probably ending the three-year Siberia of the Congress Center to which the press has been all but banished since the festival expanded as a consequence of unification.

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