'Good' year for Berlin competition


COLOGNE, Germany -- Germany will revisit its post-war past at the 57th annual Berlin International Film Festival, with Steven Soderbergh's "The Good German," a murder mystery set in 1940s Berlin, and Robert De Niro's cold war CIA drama "The Good Shepherd" both picked for this year's competition.

The two films also will provide some much-needed star wattage. In addition to the high-profile directors, "Good German" star George Clooney, a Berlinale regular, is expected to attend, as are, barring scheduling conflicts, "Good Shepherd" co-stars Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie.

Going up against Hollywood will be Chan-wook Park's "I'm A Cyborg But That's OK," which will have its international premiere in competition at Berlin.

The celebrated South Korean director, who rocketed to international acclaim with revenge dramas "Oldboy" and "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance," first competed in Berlin with his 2001 political thriller "Joint Security Area." "I'm A Cyborg" tells the story of a woman who checks into a psychiatric hospital, believing herself to be a combat cyborg. There, she falls in love with a man who believes he can steal people's souls.

Another Berlinale regular, German arthouse favorite Christian Petzold, returns to competition with his latest, "Yella," starring German actors Nina Hoss, Hinnerk Schoenemann and Devid Striesow. Petzold's "Ghosts" was in competition at Berlin in 2005.

"Yella," which will have its world premiere in Berlin, is a slice-of-life drama about a man who tries to escape unemployment and an unhappy marriage by moving from eastern Germany to the West.

"Irina Palm," from Belgian newcomer Sam Garbarski, also has been picked for Berlin's competition. Garbarski's follow-up to his feature debut, "The Rashevski Tango," the film stars singer-actress Marianne Faithful as an aging widow who takes a job in a sex club.

"We are delighted to be able to present a number of new works by renowned directors and interesting young filmmakers again," Berlinale Festival Director Dieter Kosslick said Thursday. "Many of the productions selected for this year's competition link modern historical processes to personal, intimate and extremely emotional stories."

Also making the competition cut this year is Bille August's "Goodbye Bafana," which will have its world premiere at the festival. The drama tells the true story of James Gregory, the white South African prison guard whose life was transformed by his job guarding Nelson Mandela. Joseph Fiennes plays Gregory while Dennis Haysbert stars as Mandela.

The full competition lineup for the 2007 Berlinale is expected to be announced by next week. The 57th annual Berlin International Film Festival runs Feb. 8-18.