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Berlin goes ape for ‘Man’

Wargnier pic to open fest on Feb. 10

BERLIN — Gallic helmer Regis Wargnier’s “Man to Man” will open the 55th Berlin Film Festival on Feb. 10.

Choice of the pic breaks with the tradition of opening with a high-profile U.S. or European title but maintains a custom of showcasing socially conscious pics. Story concerns 19th-century anthropologists who attempt to illustrate the link between man and ape.

Wargnier, who made his international breakthrough in 1992 with “Indochine,” wrote the screenplay to “Man to Man” with bestselling Ghana-born author William Boyd (“A Good Man in Africa”).

Pic, which will run in competition, stars Joseph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Iain Glen, Hugh Bonneville and Flora Montgomery.

Described as a historical adventure, the British-French co-production tells the story of anthropologists in South Africa in the 1870s in search of the “missing link.” The anthropologists capture a Pygmy and send him back to Scotland for research purposes.

Partnering up

Meanwhile, German pubcaster ZDF has joined the Berlin Film Festival as a media partner. Move follows last month’s withdrawal of commercial web Sat. 1 from its seven-year partnership with the Berlinale.

As part of the far-reaching agreement, ZDF becomes the Berlinale’s third main partner after Volkswagen and L’Oreal Paris.

In addition to providing extensive coverage of the festival on their daily news shows and cultural programs, ZDF and partner channel 3Sat will organize and stage the opening gala, the award ceremony and other Berlinale events.

“ZDF will be intensifying its coverage of culture and the arts even further in the coming year,” said the pubcaster’s director general, Markus Schaechter.

“On its main channel, as well as on its partner 3Sat, ZDF has promised Germany’s most important international film festival the presence in the media it deserves,” he added. “By highlighting its coverage of the Berlinale, ZDF will enhance its profile as patron of the German film market and as a platform for international cinema of indisputable artistic value.”

For children only

In related news, the Berlinale, which closes Feb. 20, has completed jury selection for the Kinderfilmfest.

The international jury for the children’s sidebar includes Sayoko Kinoshita, director of the Hiroshima Animation Festival; Gunvor Bjerre, director of the Buster Copenhagen Children’s Film Festival and project manager at New Nordic Children’s Film in Denmark; German children’s book author and film scribe Dieter Bongartz; Belgian helmer Dominique Standaert (“Hop”); and South African helmer Ntshavheni Wa Luruli, who won the Kinderfilmfest’s Crystal Bear this year for his “The Wooden Camera.”

While film selections are still under way, the Kinderfilmfest will screen Norwegian director Torun Lian’s “The Color of Milk,” about the ups and downs of first love. It’s also skedded Finnish director Liisa Helminen’s “Pelicanman,” a tale of a pelican with a passion for music who merges with a young man; “The Play,” from Iranian filmmaker Gholamreza Ramezani, about a small girl who wishes for companionship; and Mijke de Jong’s Dutch film “Bluebird,” which examines the life of a girl ostracized by her schoolmates.

In its second year, the teen-oriented 14-Plus sidebar has selected its competition lineup. It includes “Fourteen Sucks,” from Danish directors collective Dansk Skalle, which looks at young Swedes who party too much; Iranian-born helmer Reza Bagher’s Swedish pic “Popular Music,” about teens in northern Sweden during the wild 1960s; Japanese director Shunji Iwai’s “Hana & Alice”; and “Turtles Can Fly,” an Iranian-Iraqi co-production by Iranian helmer Bahman Ghobadi about Kurdish refugees caught between Saddam Hussein and the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

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