Berlinale opens on a high note

Piaf biopic kicks off 11-day festival

The 57th edition of the Berlinale kicks off tonight on a high note, and a Gallic one at that.

French biopic of Edith Piaf, the country’s best-loved songbird, leads off the 26-title Competition and inaugurates the 11-day cinemagoing extravaganza.

Some 375 titles will unspool in the various festival sections and an additional 700 or so from around the world will be bought and sold during the accompanying European Film Market.

Headquartered in the Martin Gropius Bau, latter event is bursting at the seams, so much so that spillover companies are setting up shop in an annex or simply hunkering down in hotel suites for the duration to do their wheeling and dealing.

And the sales pace is expected to be heady, if not frenetic.

“There’s going to be a lot more activity at the EFM than last year,” said U.S.-based movie buyer Gordon Steel. “The business is now all just one worldwide movable feast, and Berlin has effectively become the third stop in the annual progression, from Cannes to the AFM and now on to here.”

The fest and market also come as more and more money is being poured into filmmaking, with banks, private equity players, local subsidy boards and assorted hedge funds all funneling coin into the biz, from Hollywood to Hamburg to Hong Kong.

And auds are responding, especially to local fare. In Germany, for example, local titles accounted for 26% of total admissions in 2006.

Meanwhile, the sales bazaar here is so overstuffed that the Bau’s interior restaurant had to be displaced to accommodate extra British exhibitors and the eatery moved outdoors into a tent.

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