Friday, Feb. 8, 2008

Day 2 - Berlin Intl. Film Festival

By Jonathan Jackson
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Berlin International Film Festival - Day 2

February 8, 2008

A few hours of sleep and five films later...

Two standouts amongst the offerings thus far, the Competition title "In Love We Trust" and the European Film Market title "Phoebe in Wonderland," a film that I missed at Sundance.

"In Love We Trust" is the latest film from Chinese auteur Wang Xiaoshuai, the director of the award-winning "Beijing Bicycle." Xiaoshuai is considered a member of the "Sixth Generation" of Chinese filmmakers, because of his more naturalistic style, which is common amongst recent Chinese filmmakers. This style is in contrast to the lavishness of the Fifth Generation, see Zhang Yimou.

"In Love We Trust" is the naturalistic, yet subtley beautiful and emotional story of how two divorced parents, and their families, deal with the leukemia diagnosis of their only daughter. Standout performances and rich cinematography highlight this slow moving, equally heart warming and wrenching, but ultimately rewarding look at how a family deals with a personal tragedy.

"Phoebe in Wonderland" is the fantastical story of childhood wonder, mental illness and parenting that unfortunately left Sundance without a distribution deal. At the center of the film is Elle Fanning's performance as Phoebe, a child with an overactive imagination and a penchant for unruliness. And yes, Elle is Dakota´s little sister! The film contains some of the best scenes of childhood wonder since Jean Vigo´s "Zero for Conduct." Possibly tied up a touch too neat in the end, "Phoebe" is never the less a charming and entertaining look at the spirit of childhood and the emotional rollercoaster of parenting. It deserves a distribution deal and wide circulation.

Last night´s opening night film, "Shine a Light," has received a fairly positive critical reception, but little buzz amongst industry festival goers who have somewhat ignored the film. As of yet, no buzz titles have emerged.

On a travel side note, I just had a revealing encounter with a stranger at my Berlin work office, the Dunkin Donuts Internet Cafe. The person sitting next to me asked if I spoke English, as he wanted to borrow my pen. When I responded "yes," he abruptly said "Of Course," with a hint of sarcasm, "YOUR an AMERICAN." So I responded, "don't hold it against me." He then replied, "Well, you have a chance for change now." I have come to find over my last few visits overseas that most foriegners don't hate Americans, they just hate current American policy and its political administration. The stranger´s only other words to me, upon his exit, are still ringing through my head: "good luck."

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