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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 February 2008, 10:43 GMT
Madonna leads Berlin film event
By Emma Jones
BBC News, Berlin

Madonna is expected at the event to unveil her film-making debut

"Dear Dieter, can I bring my film to Berlin? Thanks, Madonna."

Perhaps this wasn't the actual wording of the postcard the Queen of Pop sent to Berlin Film Festival director Dieter Kosslick, but the request was the same.

Accordingly, Madonna's directorial film debut, Filth and Wisdom, will have its premiere at the festival.

Kosslick has been telling reporters he was "really impressed" by the pop star's forthright request.

"I've never before received a card from someone who said: 'Dear Dieter, if you like my film, I'd love it to be screened in Berlin'," he said.

He replied in the affirmative at once, perhaps thinking of the publicity rather than her previous film outings - such as the critically-derided Swept Away, which she made with film-maker husband Guy Ritchie.

But in Filth and Wisdom the music star says behind the camera.

While critics are sharpening their pencils, the buzz about her 81-minute film has so far been favourable.

Musical themes

Starring Richard E Grant and set in London, it is described as a comedy based on some of the material girl's own experiences in showbusiness.

Cinema buffs may have been forgiven for wondering if this really is a film festival on hearing that the Rolling Stones would open the event.

But they are attending as the subject of a documentary by Oscar-winner Martin Scorsese.

Shine A Light includes archive footage as well as new material from a Stones gig in 2006, held to celebrate Bill Clinton's 60th birthday.

Musical themes have been a feature of Dieter Kosslick's six years in charge at Berlin.

Posters for the festival in Berlin
The German capital is geared up for the 58th Berlinale

Last year the festival opened with La Vie En Rose, a biopic of Edith Piaf which has gained leading lady Marion Cotillard an Oscar nomination.

And the musicians will keep arriving in Berlin in 2008 - with a documentary about punk star Patti Smith, and Neil Young flying in to promote CSNY - Deja Vu.

While this sounds like the title of a police series, it is actually the story of folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young reuniting in 2006.

The group, now in their 60s, travelled the USA to protest the war in Iraq, and viewers see angry audiences in Atlanta walking out as they sing Let's Impeach the President for Lying.

The documentary is now Standard Operating Procedure at any festival - and, appropriately enough, that is the title of one highly-anticipated feature which investigates the events at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Paparazzi shots

But if you're looking for a Brad, George or Julia to appear at this year's Berlinale you will be disappointed - even though Julia Roberts has a film showing.

It is not until the end of the festival - when Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman arrive for the sumptuous adaptation of Philippa Gregory's novel, The Other Boleyn Girl - that the paparazzi will have their shots.

"There are a lot of films not ready this year for some reason," explains Barbara Thuillier, film correspondent for German TV network RTL.

"It's very unusual - most of them will have to go to Cannes instead."

Scarlett Johansson in The Other Boleyn Girl
Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson will promote The Other Boleyn Girl

It may occur to journalists, as they shiver on the red carpet in the February cold, that the French Riviera in May sounds like a better option.

Berlin is no longer a big staging post on the road to the Oscars, now that the Academy Awards are held only a few days later.

There is only one potential Oscar winner here - Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood - who is doing little publicity.

Ms Thuillier points out that the Berlin festival is still the third biggest film marketplace in the world.

"Why I really love it, is that it's always so fascinating and quirky. They're always trying new ideas out here, with a forum just for new digital technology and events exploring the connection between film and food."

And just like Sundance in the US, Berlin is the place to launch European indie movies.

Director Mike Leigh will be showing Happy Go Lucky, his first film since Vera Drake, while Tilda Swinton's performance as an alcoholic in Julia is guaranteed to please the critics.

Audiences will also expect a stir around British-directed film Gardens of the Night, which depicts two children who are abducted and abused for years.

The Berlin Film Festival runs from the 7-17 February.

Stones film opens Berlin festival
16 Jan 08 |  Entertainment
Leigh drama to compete at Berlin
11 Jan 08 |  Entertainment
Berlin debut for Madonna's movie
27 Dec 07 |  Entertainment
Berlin debut for Abu Ghraib film
11 Dec 07 |  Entertainment

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