'The Croods,' 'Promised Land' among first Berlin competition titles

Posted by · 8:45 am · December 13th, 2012

It may not get as much press as the sexier (and more summery) Cannes and Venice fests, but the Berlin Film Festival has quietly launched a number of major world cinema titles in recent years. Last year, “A Separation” began its golden run with a Berlinale premiere. This year, if you look down the list of 71 foreign-language Oscar hopefuls, you’ll spot more Berlin titles than Cannes ones: “A Royal Affair,” “Barbara,” “Sister,” “War Witch” and “Caesar Must Die” among them. (All that, and the festival introduced us to “Tabu” too.)

Still, while the festival is a must for aficionados of international film, it struggles to secure the A-list auteur fare and Hollywood fodder that would ensure broader media and public interest. Which is why, by their standards, nabbing the world premiere of DreamWorks Animation’s “The Croods,” over a month ahead of its March 2013 release, represents a pretty big get.

The prehistoric adventure, featuring voice work from Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage and Ryan Reynolds, is directed by Kirk De Micco (“Space Chimps”) and, more enticingly, Chris Sanders (who steered DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon”). It is one of six Competition titles announced by the Berlinale today, though it’s one of those oddly contradictory deals where it won’t compete for awards — basically, it gets the prestige of a festival berth, while Berlin gets the glamor of Emma Stone on the red carpet. Everybody wins.

One American film that will be in contention for the festival’s Golden Bear award is Gus Van Sant’s “Promised Land” — the Matt Damon-starring agricultural drama may be out in the US this month to qualify for the Oscar race, but it’ll have its international premiere in Germany. Berlin usually gets a couple of these awards-season holdovers, though “Promised Land” will likely arrive, fairly or otherwise, with the whiff of damaged goods: I have yet to see it myself, but early reviews have been tepid, and it’s invisible on the precursor circuit thus far.

On the world cinema side of things, Austrian director Ulrich Seidl will unveil the final part of his provocative “Paradise” trilogy — “Paradise: Hope” — in Competition. The first two-thirds of the enterprise, “Paradise: Love” and “Paradise: Faith,” premiered this year at Cannes and Venice respectively, making Seidl the first director since Krzysztof Kieslowski (with his “Three Colors” trilogy) to premiere films consecutively at the three European majors. “Love” received nothing at Cannes, while “Hope” took the Special Jury Prize at Venice — perhaps the concluding chapter (the films are linked more thematically than narratively) can go one better.

Prolific Korean director Hong Sang-soo, who competed at Cannes last year with the Isabelle Huppert starrer “In Another Country,” will also grace Berlin with his latest, “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon” — thus time without a European star in tow. Also in the Competition lineup are “Gloria,” from Chilean director Sebastian Lillo, and Calin Peter Netzer’s “Child’s Pose,” another product of the ongoing Romanian cinema boom.  

The full lineup will be announced in due course. The Berlinale, which I’ll again be covering here at HitFix, runs from 7 to 17 February 2013.

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