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Eastern Europe showcase opens

Cottbus event features slate of 10 features

The world’s longest-running showcase devoted to film from Eastern Europe opens in Cottbus, Germany, on Nov. 6 with a competition slate of 10 features and a special focus on film from countries of the former Yugoslavia.

The 17th edition of the Cottbus Film Festival, held in an old Prussian town between Berlin and Dresden in what used to be East Germany, includes eight premieres in its lineup and an out-of-competition screening for this year’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner, Cristian Mungiu’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.”

The Romanian director’s heart-rending take on an unwanted pregnancy, set just before the fall of Romania’s Communist regime in 1989, is one of 80 films from 25 countries that explore everyday life and visions from East Europe, festival director Roland Rust said Wednesday. Rust, who has been involved with the festival since 1992, said it was founded in 1991 — two years before German reunification — as a way of preserving rapidly disappearing cultural links after regimes of Communist East Europe had collapsed.

Cottbus had been among the first international festivals to screen Mungiu’s early films in its competition program, Rust added.

The special focus on the former Yugoslav territories is represented in the main competition by two pics.

“The Living and the Dead” is a co-production between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina — two countries that were at war little more than 10 years ago. Directed by Croat Kristijan Milic, the film is a parable for the insanity of war told through the stories of two conflicts — WWII and the Balkans wars of the 1990s. Pic was in competition at August’s Sarajevo Film Festival.

Serbian director Aleksander Rajkovic gives an entirely contemporary treatment to Shakespeare in his film “Hamlet,” set at a barracks beside a Belgrade garbage dump, where warring gangs of ethnic minority Roma people battle for supremacy.

As part of the focus on film from the ex-Yugoslav countries, a broad retrospective of films made in the region in the past decade — including some 20 feature films — also will be screened.

With a prize purse up E8,000 ($11,400) from last year, bringing it to its highest ever level — $91,000, the festival runs until Nov. 10.

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