Berlin's Panorama slate: Sex, politics, rock 'n' roll

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Sex, politics and rock 'n' roll are the themes running through this year's Panorama, the Berlin International Film Festival's main sidebar.

Parvez Sharma's "A Jihad for Love," which will open Panorama's documentary section, Dokumente, looks at the conflict between sexuality and religion by examining the lives of devout Muslims who are homosexual. The film was produced by Sandi Dubowski, who looked at similar issues among gay Orthodox Jews in "Trembling Before G-d." That film debuted in Panorama in 2001 and won Berlin's Teddy award for the best homosexual-themed film.

Sexual politics are at the core of several Dokumente entries, including Dondu Kilic's "The Other Istanbul"; "Suddenly, Last Winter," from Italian directors Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi; Jochen Hick's "East/ West"; and "Dead Gay Men and Living Lesbians," by Berlin's own Rosa von Praunheim.

Middle East politics is the focus of Eran Riklis' "Lemon Tree," a drama that opens the Panorama Special section. The film looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of a Palestinian woman who inherits a lemon grove bordering on Israeli territory.

Other high-profile Panorama Special screenings include Brad Anderson's "Transsiberian," featuring Woody Harrelson, Thomas Kretschmann and Ben Kingsley, and the world premiere of Madonna's directorial debut, "Filth & Wisdom."

Madonna won't be the only pop star featured at this year's Panorama. Seminal punk princess Patti Smith will give a concert in the German capital to support the Panorama debut of Steven Sebring's documentary "Patti Smith: Dream of Life." Ceri Levy's "Bananaz" follows Britpop regulars Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, creators of the virtual band Gorillaz. And in "Heavy Metal in Baghdad," Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi document the lives of Iraqi hard rock band Acrassicauda from the fall of Saddam Hussein to the present.

The Panorama's main section opens Feb. 8 with "Mermaid," a story of growing up in modern-day Moscow by Russian director Anna Melikyan.

A list of films screening in the Berlinale Panorama can be found at THR.com.
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