Berlinale Special syllabus putting focus on poli sci

Sidebar won't shy from tough subjects

Politics past and present, an apocalyptic fantasy set in modern-day Russia and the art of cooking a good meal are among the highlights of this year's Berlinale Special, the gala sidebar of the Berlin International Film Festival.

"I Have Never Forgotten You — The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal," Richard Trank's documentary on the legendary Nazi hunter, will have its world premiere in Berlin. The documentary, narrated by Nicole Kidman, includes previously unseen archival material as well as interviews with Wiesenthal's closest friends and family.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who co-wrote and co-produced the film, will attend the premiere.

Another highly political film, "The Lark Farm," from Italian brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, will debut in the sidebar. Starring Paz Vega, Germany's Moritz Bleibtreu, Arsinee Khanjian and Angela Molina, the film focuses on an Armenian family in Turkey in May 1915 as the Ottoman Empire orders the expulsion and widespread slaughter of the Armenian minority.

The events, which many regard as an act of genocide, are at the center of a heated debate in Europe. Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, one of the most outspoken critics of the mass killings, was assassinated earlier this year by a young man who accused him of "insulting Turkey." Thousands of mourners attended Dink's funeral in Istanbul this week.

Krisztina Goda's "Children of Glory" takes a slightly different look at European politics, examining the infamous water polo match between the Soviet Union and Hungary at the 1956 Olympic Games. The match, held shortly after the Soviets violently crushed the Hungarian uprising, has been called the bloodiest ever played as even the spectators attacked the Soviet players.

A more personal look at politics comes from Jay Anania, whose "Day on Fire" chronicles the lives of five very different people who meet by chance on a winter's day in New York.

Other films screening at the Berlinale Special program include "Sakuran," the debut feature from Japanese photographer Mika Ninagawa; Fernando Perez's "Madrigal," a look at the theater community in modern-day Cuba; and the documentary "Comrades in Dreams," from German director Uli Gaulke, which follows film fanatics from around the globe.

Food and Zen are the focus of Doris Doerrie's docu "How to Cook Your Life," which looks at the principles of Zen Buddhism and how they can apply to cooking dinner. It features California Zen master Edward Espe Brown.

Finally, for pure escapism, the Berlinale Special program will feature the international premiere of Timur Bekmambetov's fantasy adventure"Day Watch."