Eclectic company

Adventurous Cologne Conference spreads the focus

COLOGNE, Germany -- Much like the television world it aims to reflect, TV festival and confab the Cologne Conference has gone global and multiplatform.

The Cologne Conference, which this year celebrates its 19th anniversary, has always been a showcase for international TV. But the content featured at the 2009 edition is broader and more cosmopolitan than ever before.

The productions on display from Sept. 30-Oct. 4 range from big network series -- ITV's "Above Suspicion," NBC's "Kings" or "Glee" from Fox -- to made-for-the-Web programming such as Ed Brubaker's neo-noir "Angel of Death" featuring Zoe Bell and Lucy Lawless and "HeimHerdHund," a bizarre S&M-flavored Internet series featuring walk-on roles from some of the biggest names in German TV.

The Cologne Conference is also moving beyond the small and smaller screens with a new sidebar featuring a selection of the best in new independent films from around the world. For its inaugural year, the Independent section will include buzzworthy titles such as Noah Buschel's 9/11 aftermath drama "The Missing Person," Armando Iannucci's Brit comedy "In the Loop" and "Beeswax," the latest from famed mumblecore director Andrew Bujalski.

Although heavy on U.S. and Brit titles, the Independent section also samples some of the more interesting indie foreign features from the past year, among them the stunningly shot Belgian drama "Lost Persons Area," which won the SACD screenwriting prize at May's Festival de Cannes for writer-director Caroline Strubbe and "Bad Day to Go Fishing," from Uruguayan director Alvaro Brechner, which is described by some critics as a retro version of "The Wrestler" as shot by the Coen brothers.

"Audiences were demanding more independent features, particularly films that either never get to Germany or come here very late," says Cologne Conference director Martina Richter, explaining the decision to add the new sidebar.

The Independents section also reflects the growing convergence between television, film and interactive media, a convergence that has been a narrative thread running through the Cologne Conference in the past two decades.

This year's event adds another layer to the increasingly complex and interconnected digital world with a discussion on the role of architecture in modern media companies. A panel on Oct. 2 will include such international luminaries as star architect Rem Koolhaas, who designed the new high-tech headquarters for China's state television network CCTV, Dutch architecture specialist Bart Lootsma and virtual reality pioneer Rene Daalder.

But this year's highlight will undoubtedly be the Oct. 2 Q&A discussion with Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski, the winner of this year's Cologne Film Prize. In his honor, the Cologne Conference will screen a comprehensive retrospective of all of Polanski's works, from the classics "Chinatown" (1974), "The Pianist" (2002) and "Rosemary's Baby" (1968) to the director's earliest Polish short films and features.
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