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    Phillip Bergson’s Festival Marathon 2007

    By Phillip Bergson | July 1, 2008

    A regular contributor to KINO – German Film & International Reports, roving British film critic Phillip Bergson visited a score of festivals at the end of 2007. Herewith a short resumé of his experiences seen from the inside of festival life at choice calendar events in Chicago, Amsterdam, Bitola, Mlada Boleslav, Sevilla, and London.

    Unusually hot weather forced the Windy City to suspend its annual marathon in mid run, but the 43rd Chicago International Film Festival (4-17 October 2007) continued to draw crowds to far-flung multiplexes for both arthouse and mainstream premieres. German legend Udo Kier served on the International Jury and enlivened one soiree with impromptu reditions of Lili Marleen.

    At the 20th Cinekids International (14-21 October 2007) the festival competed with a marathon that closed most of the streets in Old Amsterdam, making it difficult to reach this popular multi-media showcase for younger folks’ fare. Newly relocated to a vast, renovated gasworks, Cinekids now has screening-rooms, bars, and a huge venue for the amusing awards ceremony spectacular held the night before the runners descended.

    In Macedonia, the 28th Manaki Brothers Film Camera Festival (25-30 September 2007) threw the spotlight on cinematographers in bustling Bitola. Merry Magyar Karoly Makk headed a jury that included German-based director Sergej Stanojkovski, Duisburg-born cameraman Mathias Maasz, and your Kino correspondent. Top honors were shared by Jaromir Sofr (for Jiri Menzel’s I Served the King of England) and Dragan Markovic (for the creative Croatian war drama The Living and the Dead). Virginie Saint Martin was also awarded for her fine work on I Am from Titov Veles (Macedonia), well directed by Teona Mitevska with her actress sister, the lovely Labina. This striking Macedonian family fresco can be seen in the Panorama at the 2008 Berlinale. Tributes were also paid to famed producer Branko Lustig and Anatoly Petritsky, who introduced a handsomely restored portion of the epic War and Peace.

    A clutch of Germanic screen celebrities were feted at the charmingly styled 5th Festival of European Film Smiles (8-15 September 2007) in Mlada Boleslav. Jürgen Heinrich (TV’s Wolff’s Turf), Peter Kremer (Siska), cabarettist Ottfried Fischer, and Gojko Mitic (Old Shatterhand and Winnetou II) were chased by Czech autograph hunters. Thanks to a fast car from fest sponsor Skoda, Dani Levy (Mein Führer) sped from Berlin to the spectacular awards show in the Automobile Museum. Other trophies went to Rowan Atkinson (Best Actor in Mr. Bean’s Holiday) and Zdenek Sverak (star of his director son Jan Sverak’s latest box-office hit Empties). Growing audiences, lively parties, a costume exhibition, and the fleeting presence of Jiri Menzel added to the allure of new European comedies on parade.

    The skies also smiled on Sevilla, where even with the temperatures rising, admissions again shot up at the 4th Festival of European Cinema (3-11 November 2007). Volker Schloendorff brought Heinz Bennent, star of the excellent, exotic Ulzhan, while Jiri Menzel led the Focus on the Czech Republic with a memorable Master Class at the university. The nominations for the European Film Awards were announced in the nearby Alfonso XIII Hotel, seen in Lawrence of Arabia, whose gardens furnished the perfect fiesta backdrop.

    The 10th London Festival of German Films (23-29 November 2007) has become a popular fixture at the Curzon Miniplex in Soho with several sellouts. Guests included Achim Bornhak and Natalie Avelon, director and star of opener Das wilde Leben (Eight Miles High), a well crafted portrait of ’60s hippie Uschi Obermeier, and Dani Levy, whose Mein Führer enjoyed a tumultous UK premiere. Iris Ordonez and her hard-working team hosted a congenial Indian banquet for appreciative guests from the local and German film industries.

    Coincidentally, BAFTA and the UK Critics Circle have each bestowed four nominations on Das Leben der Anderen, not merely as Best Foreign Film but also in the main categoreies of Best Director and Screenplay. The Stasi-saga enjoyed huge critical acclaim in the British media as well as enthusiastic audiences. Springtime for German cinema, indeed!

    – Phillip Bergson

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