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German films bask in Berlin spotlight

Themes cover terrorism, immigration, sexual tension

As the main international launchpad for German movies, the Berlinale usually serves up many of the year’s top Teutonic titles, from historical dramas and romantic comedies to gritty true stories and the obligatory Nazi-era yarns.

This year the fest has a particularly strong crop of local movies. Such hard-hitting topics as terrorism, immigration, complex sexual situations and Wim Wenders’ 3D immersion into modern dance are just some of what Teutonic cinema has in store for festgoers.

Beki Probst, head of the European Film Market, said German films continue to generate plenty of attention abroad. “There is a big interest from foreign distributors out to discover new German films; they’re very keen to find out what’s going on here.”

Local sales companies have already booked a number of deals in the run-up to the fest.

Music Box nabbed Philipp Stoelzl’s historical drama “Goethe!,” a romantic drama about the young 18th-century German scribe starring Alexander Fehling, who’s being feted this year at the fest as Germany’s Shooting Star.

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The Chicago-based distrib also released Stoelzl’s 1930s-set mountain-climbing drama “North Face,” which became the second most successful German film at the U.S. box office last year, after “The White Ribbon.”

Los Angeles distrib Strand Releasing picked up Tom Tykwer’s love-triangle drama “Three.” The Berlin-set pic centers on a husband and wife whose marriage is put to the test when they both fall for the same guy.

“Goethe” and “Three” both screen in the Berlinale’s German Cinema market section, which also presents Ralf Huettner’s road movie hit “Vincent Wants to Sea”; Dennis Gansel’s vampire thriller “We Are the Night”; and Chris Kraus’ Estonian-set historical drama “The Poll Diaries.”

“Germany is a nation of great young talent. We see that in works like Feo Aladag’s debut ‘When We Leave’ and Lars Kraume’s ‘The Days to Come,’?” said Irina Ignatiew, exec VP of international at Munich-based Telepool, which is handling those titles worldwide.

Indeed, while Andres Veiel’s “If Not Us, Who?” is set in early 1960s West Germany, the director says his fact-based pic is relevant to today’s auds. The competition screener, which stars August Diehl (“Salt”) and Lena Lauzemis, explores the seeds of left-wing terrorism.

The story focuses on the relationship between writer Bernward Vesper and political activist Gudrun Ensslin, who went on to become a pivotal figure in the militant Red Army Faction — the subject of Veiel’s 2001 documentary “Black Box Germany.”

Moritz Bleibtreu toplines Wolfgang Murnberger’s Austrian fest screener “My Best Enemy,” a tragicomedy about two childhood pals who pull the ultimate switch when one is forced to don a Nazi uniform and the other is sent to a concentration camp.

The pic has been racking up sales since Cannes, including deals in the U.K., China, Japan and Latin America.

Immigration remains a hot topic, and it’s the central theme of “Almanya,” Turkish-German helmer Yasemin Samdereli’s fest screener about a Turkish family’s immigration to and — three generations later — emigration from Germany.

Likewise unspooling in the main section is “Pina,” Wenders’ 3D tribute to the late German modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch. Wenders says he was inspired to shoot in 3D after seeing concert film “U2 3D” in 2007.

“Only by including the dimension of space did I feel confident, rather than merely presumptuous, that here was a suitable way of transporting Pina’s Tanztheater to the screen,” he said.

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