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Tuesday, February 9, 1999 Published at 10:23 GMT


Holocaust theme to Berlin Film Festival

Steven Spielberg with the Oscars he won for Schindler's List in 1994

Berlin is readying itself for its 49th film festival and this year films about the holocaust are playing an important part.

The Berlinale, as it is known, will open with the movie Aimee and Jaguar by German director Max Faerberbock. It is the story of a lesbian love affair between a mother of four married to a Nazi and a Jewish woman who is eventually arrested and sent to her death.

In all 25 films from Europe and the US will compete for the festival's Golden Bear Awards.

"It will be a contest of opposites, of extremes, with many established directors like Altman and Chabrol, but also six first films," said festival director Moritz de Hadeln.

Holocaust memorial

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The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, will open the festival on Wednesday. He will also meet Steven Spielberg, director of the holocaust film Schindler's List and the war film Saving Private Ryan.

The two will discuss setting up a holocaust memorial in Berlin. Spielberg has already volunteered to contribute to a memorial but there has been much debate over what form it should take.

The money would come from the director's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, financed by the $60m profit from Schindler's List. The Shoah Foundation has carried out nearly 50,000 interviews with holocaust survivors around the world - and plans to make the interviews accessible for the public.

Chancellor Schroeder has said he will leave it to the German parliament to decide on the exact nature of the monument.

Spielberg will also show his documentary The Last Days at the festival, the first film to be made by the Shoah foundation.

Films in the running

The US is heavily represented with eight films, among them Three Seasons by Tony Bui, the first US film to be made in Vietnam. Three Seasons won the Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize for best dramatic film and the Audience Award for best drama last week.

Robert Altman will present his film Cookie's Fortune, a comedy starring Glenn Close, Julianne Moore and Liv Tyler.

John Madden's hit movie Shakespeare in Love will also be on view as will Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line which stars Nick Nolte, John Travolta and Sean Penn.

The European entries include the French film The Colour of Lies directed by Claude Chabrol plus other contributions from Britain, Denmark, Spain, Germany Portugal and Turkey.

Stars who are expected to attend the festival include Meryl Streep, Nick Nolte, Gwyneth Paltrow and Harvey Keitel.

Shirley MacLaine will be presented with a special Golden Bear on 18 February to honour her career.

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