Subjects include Afghan War, social dysfunction

BERLIN — The impact of the war in Afghanistan and social dysfunction are among the powerful themes running through this year’s International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg, which kicks off next week with Matias Bize’s Chilean drama “The Life of Fish.”

Running Nov. 11-21, the fest presents five major sections, including the main International Competition.

“The Life of Fish,” a non-competition title, follows a young travel journalist who returns to his native Chile after having lived the past 10 years in Berlin only to realize, there’s no going back.

The screening marks a return to Mannheim-Heidelberg for Bize, who won the fest’s Rainer Werner Fassbinder Award in 2003 for “Sabado.”

Vying for the International Competition’s main prize are 15 titles from around the globe, among them three Canadian productions that provide distinct social commentary: Afghani-born filmmaker Nelofer Pazira’s “Act of Dishonor,” about a young Afghani woman who’s life is forever changed after meeting a Canadian film team; Francois Delisle’s “Twice a Woman,” about a woman who escapes with her adolescent son from a violent husband; and Daniel Grou’s “10 1/2,” about a troubled young boy and a childcare worker’s efforts to help him.

Two British films also examine the complexities of relationships, both at home and abroad. The difficulties experienced by Westerners and Afghanis of the opposite sex is at the center of David Whitney’s U.K. drama “Kandahar Break,” while Marcel Grant’s “Just Ines” focuses on a man coming to terms with his life after violently attacking his wife.

Berlin-based British writer-director Cynthia Beatt; Swiss filmmaker Clemens Klopfenstein and Stefan Laudyn, director of the International Film Festival Warsaw, comprise this year’s international jury that will hand out the fest’s main award.

This year’s docu sidebar, Pretty Real, showcases such titles as Janus Metz’s controversial “Armadillo,” about Danish soldiers on their first foreign tour in Afghanistan; Emmanuel Laurent’s “Two in the Wave,” a look at Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard; “Dreaming Film,” Belgian filmmaker Eric Pauwles’ meditation on dream, travel and film; and Digna Sinke’s “Wistful Wilderness,” which chronicles the re- naturalization process of the Dutch island of Tiengemeten, once a thriving agricultural region and the director’s childhood home that has since been deserted and returned to nature.

Some 60,000 festgoers and 1,000 international industry attendees are expected at the event, which presents some 50 film premieres from around the globe.

Fest organizers are also looking to boost the prospects of arthouse filmmakers at the annual Mannheim Meeting Place.

The industry forum is bringing together newly established players, including digital distribs, digital culture channels, VOD specialists and start-up producers as well as traditional distribs, buyers and sales agents who all share a commitment to arthouse cinema.

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