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56th Berlin Film Festival kicks off

The 56th Berlinale opens on Thursday with the world premiere of 'Snow Cake'.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2006 22:28 IST

The 56th Berlinale, the first major European film festival of the year, opens on Thursday with the world premiere of Snow Cake, a tender drama starring Sigourney Weaver as an autistic woman.

The competition is packed with political thrillers, gritty social dramas and new features from the giants of international cinema including Robert Altman, Claude Chabrol and Sidney Lumet.

Snow Cake, a British-Canadian co-production, is one of 19 films vying for the prestigious Golden and Silver Bear top prizes, which will be awarded on February 18 by a jury led by British actress Charlotte Rampling.

"I am always very intrigued and very fascinated by the variety of social comment and political comment and high-powered emotional content that you get through the films in Berlin," Rampling told a press conference.

The 11-day event, which ranks with Cannes and Venice among Europe's top film festivals, will tackle thorny issues ranging from the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay to human rights in Iran in keeping with the festival's strong political tradition.

Critics say the films in competition are strong, if somewhat grim.

"Berlin is always a more sober festival than Venice or Cannes. The films are suited to the Berlin weather at this time of year and it is certainly not a pick-me-up line-up," Scott Roxborough of the Hollywood Reporter told a news agency.

First Published: Feb 09, 2006 22:28 IST