Green equals green

Big biz, polluters in crosshairs of hot Berlinale titles

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BERLIN -- If the late cult comic Bill Hicks were in Berlin, he might have observed that some filmmakers here are going after the concerned eco-activist dollar. That's a big dollar, Bill. Others, he might say, are chasing the outraged anti-global corporation dollar. Yeah, that's another big dollar, Bill.

It would no doubt be excessively cynical to question the sincerity of most of the projects on display here that broach the perversions of globalization on economics and eco-systems. But one thing is sure: Movies on these hot-button issues are a hot sell.

Witness the pull of Robert Kenner's "Food, Inc.," which attracted a capacity crowd Sunday afternoon at the 1,500-seat FriedrichStadtPalast to open the Culinary Cinema sidebar. The movie, which was a European premiere, turns the spotlight on U.S. industrial farming and the need for alternatives, a message that was met with a rousing reception. Kenner was joined after the screening by several guests including authors Eric Schlosser ("Fast Food Nation") and Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dilemma") for a lively debate on the issues raised.

And Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross' "The Shock Doctrine," is likely to confirm the trend. The movie is based on Naomi Klein's book on the cynical exploitation of wars and other catastrophes by global corporations and governments.

In fact, movies related to the theme of globalization dot the Berlinale lineup. The Earth's limited resources and the threat to healthy food production practices are examined in documentaries "Terra Madre" by Ermanno Olmi and "Our Children Will Accuse Us" from Frenchman Jean-Paul Jaud, both in Culinary Cinema. "Encirclement," directed by Richard Brouillette and screening in the Forum sidebar, is a look at how neo-liberalism ensnares democracy.

Documentary filmmakers Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno brought their latest outing "The Yes Men Fix The World" to open this year's Panorama Documentary section to a packed house. The movie, co-directed by "Bowling for Columbine" editor Kurt Engfehr, leads the viewer through a series of political hoaxes pulled off by Bichlbaum and Bonanno. It's all a bid to highlight the greed and brutal selfishness of some of the world's biggest and most powerful multinational corporations, the Yes Men say.

The movie includes the famous 2004 impersonation of a Dow Chemical spokesperson on BBC World News, in which the company appeared to take responsibility for the largest industrial accident in history -- the Bhopal disaster -- in a broadcast that reached 300 million people.

Bonanno said it was up to filmmakers or "out-of-power people to fight people in power who abuse it."

But it is not just docs that are reflecting concerns about globalization issues. Lukas Moodysson's competition title "Mammoth" depicts the interdependence between the privileged wealthy in the West and the struggling poor in the developing world, whose fate is often brutal.

Tom Tykwer's Berlin opener, "The International," tackles a fictionalized world of global banking with involvement in arms dealing to better manipulate debt in the developing world.

Another intriguing little film screening in the market here is the oddball black comedy "Louise-Michel," directed by Gustave de Kervern and Benoit Delepine, in which a group of laid-off factory workers decide to pool their meager redundancy money to hire a hit man and whack the company boss. But the workers' response to the brutality of capitalism does not go according to plan when the hit man turns out to be a inept trans-sexual. The film has done solid business in France and sales outfit Funny Balloons has sold the title to more than 20 countries.

"The film's success is in part because it arrives at the right time and people can identify with it. It is entertaining, but it also has a context and deals with a topic that affects everyone these days," said Peter Danner, head of Funny Balloons.