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‘Shepherd,’ ‘German’ head to Berlin

Festival reveals first six competition titles

Robert De Niro’s CIA drama “The Good Shepherd,” Bille August’s South African tale “Goodbye Bafana,” Steven Soderbergh’s post-war drama “The Good German” and Teutonic director Christian Petzold’s “Yella” will be competing for the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Intl. Film Festival, which kicks off Feb. 8.

The first six competition titles, announced Thursday, include works by a number of Berlinale veterans, including August, Soderbergh and Petzold.

Park Chan-wook’s South Korean drama “I Am a Cyborg But That’s OK,” about a young woman in a psychiatric hospital who thinks she’s a cyborg but nevertheless falls in love, also will unspool in competition. Park first competed at the Berlinale six years ago with political thriller “Joint Security Area.”

Also selected for the Berlinale’s main section is Sam Garbarski’s Belgian-German-U.K. co-production “Irina Palm,” starring Marianne Faithfull as a 50-year-old widow so desperately in need of money that she unwittingly accepts a job in a sex club.

The first U.S. films to be announced for the fest, “The Good Shepherd” and “The Good German,” were expected selections for Berlin due to their political and historical subject matter and, in the case of Soderbergh’s film, the fact that the German capital plays a major role despite the pic being shot entirely on Hollywood backlots. Soderbergh was last in Berlin in 2003 with his sci-fi drama “Solaris.”

The selection of the films also makes it highly likely that George Clooney and Matt Damon, as well as De Niro and Soderbergh, will be on hand to provide star wattage for the fest.

August’s “Goodbye Bafana,” an international co-prod, chronicles the true story of James Gregory (Joseph Fiennes), a white South African prison guard whose life is profoundly altered when he meets the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, whom he ends up guarding for more than 20 years. August’s “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” unspooled in competition at the Berlinale in 1997.

Petzold’s “Yella,” the director’s second Berlinale contender after 2005’s “Ghosts,” follows a young woman from the former East German region of Brandenburg who begins a new job in western Germany in order to escape a wretched marriage.

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