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Berlin fest picks Hanks, Zhang movies for line-up

BERLIN (AFP) ― The Berlin film festival unveiled its first selections Monday including a 9/11 drama starring Tom Hanks and new pictures from China’s Zhang Yimou and Filipino art house star Brillante Mendoza.

The 62nd annual event, running Feb. 9 to 19, will include the hotly awaited “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by British director Stephen Daldry (“The Hours”).

The movie is based on the 2005 best-selling novel by Jonathan Safran Foer in which a young boy searches New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks for the lock matching a key left by his dead father.

It features Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Max von Sydow and will screen out of competition.

Zhang (“Hero”) will present “The Flowers of War” with British Oscar winner and Batman star Christian Bale as a opportunistic Westerner caught up in Japan’s bloody occupation of Nanking during World War II.
Chinese director Zhang Yimou poses at the issuing ceremony of the commemorative book of movie “The Flowers of War” in Beijing, on Dec. 12. (Xinhua-Yonhap News)
Chinese director Zhang Yimou poses at the issuing ceremony of the commemorative book of movie “The Flowers of War” in Beijing, on Dec. 12. (Xinhua-Yonhap News)

The picture, which has already been nominated for a Golden Globe prize in the United States, will also be shown out of competition in Berlin.

Mendoza, a festival favourite who picked up the best director award in Cannes in 2009 for “Kinatay,” recruited French screen icon Isabelle Huppert to play an aid worker kidnapped by Islamist extremist group Abu Sayyaf in his Berlin competition entry “Captive.”

The Berlinale, as the event is known, which ranks with Cannes and Venice among the top European film festivals, said Spain’s Antonio Chavarrias would premiere his thriller “Childish Games” in competition.

And “Postcards from the Zoo,” billed as an Indonesian-German-Chinese production by a director identified only as Edwin, rounded out the preliminary list of contenders for the festival’s Golden and Silver Bear top prizes.

British director Mike Leigh will chair the jury, which organisers said Monday would also include Hollywood actor Jake Gyllenhaal, Franco-British actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, Dutch photographer and film-maker Anton Corbijn, French director Francois Ozon, Algerian writer Boualem Sansal and German actress Barbara Sukowa.

Rounding out the list is Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who took home the Golden Bear and swept the acting prizes this year for his wrenching drama “Nader and Simin: A Separation.”

In the Berlinale Special sidebar section, British Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald will unveil his keenly anticipated documentary on the life of the late reggae superstar Bob Marley.

“Death Row,” a four-part documentary series by German director Werner Herzog (“Cave of Forgotten Dreams”), will also premiere and Bollywood hero Shah Rukh Khan is expected in town for a screening of the German-India co-production “Don ― The King is Back.”

Canadian surrealist Guy Maddin (“Brand Upon the Brain”) will show “Keyhole,” which the New York Times has called “a gangster ghost drama” starring Jason Patric and Isabella Rossellini.

And Mexican-born siren Salma Hayek will appear in a Spanish comedy, “La chispa de la vida,” or The spark of life.
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