Americans dominate Berlinale


The 58th annual Berlin International Film Festival, bookended by Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones documentary "Shine a Light" and the Michel Gondry comedy "Be Kind Rewind," offers a competition selection that leans heavily on U.S. productions.

About one-third of this year's lineup hails from the U.S., including the world premieres of Lance Hammer's feature film debut "Ballast"; Justin Chadwick's period piece "The Other Boleyn Girl," featuring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson; Dennis Lee's Julia Roberts starrer "Fireflies in the Garden" (both screening out of competition); and Damian Harris' "Gardens of the Night."

Other U.S. productions in Berlin include "Elegy," an adaptation of Phillip Roth's novel "The Dying Animal" by Spanish director Isabel Coixet; and "S.O.P. — Standard Operating Procedure," a documentary on Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib by Oscar winner Errol Morris. Morris' film will mark the first time a docu will compete for Berlin's Golden Bear award.

Perhaps the most anticipated U.S. film heading to Berlin is Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood," which will have its international premiere at the Berlinale.

Other competition films generating buzz include Johnnie To's "Sparrow," a gangster thriller set among Hong Kong pickpockets, and "The Elite Squad," Jose Padilha's docu-style film about the battles between police and street gangs in Brazil.

In addition to "Sparrow," Asian films are represented by Japan's Yoji Yamada, a Berlinale regular, who returns with "Kabei — Our Mother"; Chinese filmmaker Wang Xiaoshuai, whose "In Love We Trust" will bow in Berlin; and "Night and Day" from Korean director Hong Sangsoo.

British film, usually a hallmark of the fest, has just a single standard bearer this year — director Mike Leigh, who will screen his latest, "Happy-Go-Lucky."

Home-field advantage didn't help German cinema either.

Dorris Dorrie is the only German director in the 2008 competition with her Tokyo-set drama "Cherry Blossoms."

The 22 competition films will battle it out for Berlin's Gold and Silver Bears, which will be awarded Feb. 16. The fest kicks off Feb. 7 and wraps Feb.17 with a public screening day featuring the best of the fest.

The full competition lineup for the 58th Berlin International Film Festival follows:

"Ballast," Lance Hammer (international premiere)

"Black Ice," Petri Kotwica (international premiere)

"Cherry Blossoms," Doris Dorrie (world premiere)

"Elegy," Isabel Coixet (world premiere)

"Fireflies in the Garden," Dennis Lee (world premiere, out of competition)

"Gardens of the Night," Damian Harris (world premiere)

"Happy-Go-Lucky," Mike Leigh (world premiere)

"Heart of Fire," Luigi Falorni (world premiere)

"In Love We Trust," Wang Xiaoshuai (world premiere)

"I've Loved You So Long," Philippe Claudel (world premiere)

"Julia," Erick Zonca (world premiere)

"Kabei — Our Mother," Yoji Yamada (international premiere)

"Katyn," Andrzej Wajda (international premiere, out of competition)

"Lady Jane," Robert Guediguian (world premiere)

"Lake Tahoe," Fernando Eimbcke (world premiere)

"Night and Day," Hong Sangsoo (world premiere)

"Quiet Chaos," Antonello Grimaldi (international premiere)

"Restless," Amos Kollek (world premiere)

"S.O.P. Standard Operating Procedure," Errol Morris (world premiere)

"Sparrow," Johnnie To (world premiere)

"The Other Boleyn Girl," Justin Chadwick (world premiere, out of competition)

"The Song of Sparrows," Majid Majidi (world premiere)

"There Will Be Blood," Paul Thomas Anderson (international premiere)

"The Elite Squad," Jose Padilha (international premiere)

"Shine a Light," Martin Scorsese (world premiere, out of competition) opening-night film

"Be Kind Rewind," Michel Gondry (international premiere, out of competition) closing-night film