Berlin 2012: Politics Take Center Stage at Fest Opener

"Farewell My Queen"
"Farewell My Queen"
 

BERLIN - Politics were center stage at the opening night gala for the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival, which kicked off Thursday night with the red carpet premiere of Benoit Jacquot's Farewell My Queen starring Diane Kruger as Marie Antoinette and rising star Lea Seydoux as the Queen's reader.

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After the film's press screening this morning, many have drawn parallels between Farewell's plot - the collapse of the corrupt royal court on the eve of the French revolution - and the events of the Arab Spring.

German culture minister Bernd Neumann made the connection explicit, opening the Berlinale with a call for solidarity with ordinary citizens in Arab dictatorships who are fighting for change. He recalled that it was exactly a year ago that the citzens of Egypt overthrew their corrupt regime. The political angle could help Farewell in Berlin, where the festival jury (headed this year by UK director Mike Leigh), tend to favor films with a political message.

But its the film's speculation that Marie Antoinette may have been a lesbian that will likely grab the headlines. The sexuality aspect could play well for Cohen Media Group, who picked up U.S. rights for the film from French sales agent Elle Driver just ahead of its world premiere in Berlin.  

Attracting the attention of local film fans who braved snow and freezing temperatures to crowd the red carpet were Farewell's stars Kruger and Seydoux along with VIP jury members Jake Gyllenhaal and directors Anton Corbijn and Francois Ozon. Another famous face spotted in the crowd was Berlinale regular Sir Christopher Lee.

The biggest names, however, are expected in the coming days, when stars such as Angelina Jolie, Clive Owen, Robert Pattinson and Uma Thurman grace Berlin frigid red carpet over the next 10 days.

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