No radical changes for growing Generation

Berlin sidebar has 300 more titles than last year

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BERLIN -- Far from being just a ghetto for kids' stuff, the Berlinale's Generation sidebar for children and teenagers this year confirms its position as one of the most accessible sections of the festival for all ages.

The sidebar has a new director, New Zealander Maryanne Redpath, who took over from Thomas Hailer after the 2008 edition. But don't expect a radical change of direction under the new boss. "For this time 'round, the main aim has been to consolidate on recent progress," said Redpath, who was previously co-director of Generation.

Generation morphed from the Kinderfilmfest a few years back, splitting into the Kplus section for younger audiences and 14plus for young adults. But astute festgoers will find gems with wide appeal in both lineups.

As evidence of the increased profile the sidebar now has in the international film world, submissions this year topped 1,000 films, a leap from about 700 the previous year.

"The label Generation has opened up a lot of doors for us. It's seen as an economically viable place for presenting films. And it is a huge market," Redpath said. "We're trying to strengthen links with the EFM. We now have one slot a day for the 14plus films in the Cinemaxx, which adds to the existing slot for Kplus movies, to bring the section closer to buyers."

Another innovation this year is the first-ever documentary in the Kplus lineup, "Los Herederos," an observational documentary about working kids all over the world from Mexico's Eugenio Polgovsky.

This year's edition boasts a smattering of international talent for red-carpet premieres. These include "Harry Potter" sidekick Rupert Grint, who toplines the British teenagers-off-the-rails film "Cherrybomb," directed by Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D'Sa. David Carradine, who plays a guru in David Lee Miller's "My Suicide," will be in Berlin with the film, as will Robert Carlyle for the U.K. title "I Know You Know," directed by Justin Kerrigan.

"But our stars are often the non-professionals, young actors who come to Berlin and some of whom are seeing themselves on the big screen for the first time," Redpath said.

A recurring theme this year in the 14plus section is where to set limits.

"In many of the films, they often go past the limits. Another recurring theme in many of our films is the search for your own identity, which is something that progressively happens in coming of age," Redpath said. One such film is "The Strength of Water," New Zealand helmer Armagan Ballantyne's Maori film about twins, one of whom dies, leaving the other to ponder where you go when you die.

On the animation front, Generation Kplus hosts the world premiere of Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey's Celtic adventure "Brendan and the Secret of Kells," described by Redpath as "a kaleidoscope of animation that goes beyond three dimensions." Also on the toon menu is "Mamma Moo and Crow" by Swedish maestro Igor Veyshtagin, an explosion of primary colors for the sidebar's younger audiences.

The 14plus section includes "Mary & Max," the feature debut from Oscar-winning shorts director Adam Elliot, who uses claymation to tell the story of an 8-year-old girl living in an Australian suburb who becomes pen pals with an obese 44-year-old New York man with Asperger Syndrome. The film, which features voice work from Toni Collette and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, unspooled to good notices at Sundance.

Another way of breaking down the barriers between the "kids" sidebar and the rest of the festival has been to include so-called crossover screenings. This sees Generation borrowing the odd film from other sections when its themes are suitable, as is the case this year with "The Exploding Girl" from U.S. helmer Bradley Rust Grey, which airs in Forum, and Isabelle Adjani starrer "Skirt Day," which is borrowed from Panorama. Bosnian Aida Begic's film "Snow," about a village of war widows, screens in both 14plus and Culinary Cinema, and Generation will host a screening of Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi classic "2001: A Space Odyssey" courtesy of the 70mm Retrospectives section.