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Cannes festival snubs Germany again

Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2003

CANNES, France You'd never know German cinema is enjoying a renaissance by attending the Cannes Film Festival.

For the 10th year in a row, German movies have been shut out of the main competition.

But almost everywhere but the French Riviera, they're getting seen and getting awards.

''Nowhere in Africa'' won the Academy Award as best foreign-language picture in March. And ''Good Bye, Lenin!'' is among Germany's all-time top-grossing movies and is headed for theaters from Japan to Britain.

Germany's success at other festivals has some in the industry wondering: Who really needs Cannes, anyway?

''All those German movies are running in Venice, or somewhere else,'' said Cathy Rohnke of German entertainment group Telepool. ''People are saying, 'OK, if they won't take my movie, someone else will.'''

Other moviemakers might simply have given up. Wim Wenders says some of his fellow Germans are discouraged by the perennial Cannes snub.

''Some, maybe because of fear of being rejected, decide to go to Berlin'' for the festival there, the director said.

Wenders was the last German director with a German-language film competing for the top Cannes prize: 1993's ''Faraway, So Close!'' about an angel who falls to earth. It was the sequel to his ''Wings of Desire.'' In 1997, his English-language ''The End of Violence'' competed as a joint German-French-U.S. entry.

Wenders was in Cannes this year to show a blues documentary, ''The Soul of a Man,'' which was not in competition.

Cannes organizers watched 908 feature-length movies this year and whittled the choice down to 20 for the main competition, including five French movies, three from the United States and two from Japan.

Germany submitted more than 10 movies, said Mariette Rissenbeck of the German film export union. She's at a loss for the exact reasons to explain the rejections, though she suggests that current German films may not fit the Cannes organizers' sensibilities.

Germany's movie industry has been changing in the past few years. Once, German movies were often dark and psychological. Rainer Werner Fassbinder epitomized that aesthetic, making challenging movies about tortured characters.

Today, ''more and more, directors have the audience in mind,'' said Thorsten Ritter, head of marketing for Bavaria Film International.

His company was in Cannes selling ''Good Bye, Lenin!'' a touching comedy about an East German boy whose mother fervently devoted to communism falls into a coma just as her ideals are being consigned to history.

When she wakes up months later, her son tries to spare her the shock by pretending that nothing changed.

The movie has been a hit, grossing $40.7 million. It also won a prize for best European film at the Berlin Film Festival.

Executives don't often talk about which movies have been submitted for competition at Cannes. Many cite the German hit ''Run Lola Run,'' the edgy 1998 race-against-the-clock film, as the kind of movie that should have been at Cannes.

'''Run Lola Run' made a difference in the perception of German film,'' Ritter said. People ''saw that German film has moved on.''



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