Much Loved
Much Loved
The Inseminator
The Inseminator

Germany’s second-most important film festival, after the Berlinale, is getting ready to unspool dozens of films from more than 50 countries. And even fans of swing music have been invited to watch some classics under the stars.

A touch of the forbidden and a strong line-up of films from Asia exploring controversial social and political issues are key features of the 33rd Filmfest Muenchen – the Munich Film Festival – opening today.

A total of 179 films from 54 countries will be shown during the festival, running until July 4, under the broad theme of “crossing beyond borders” – a nod to the school of cinema thought that movies are not just for entertainment, but also should seek to tread new territory, even break with taboos.

“We have a fantastic line-up,” said festival director Diana Iljine. “A large number of films show societies around the world shifting like tectonic plates and causing all kinds of major changes.”

In fact, two of the films that will add spice to the festival have been banned by the authorities in their home countries. There is Nguyen Truyen Giong (The Inseminator) from Vietnam by young director Kim Quy Bui who has earned international acclaim for her film that breaks century-old taboos about ancestor worship, sexuality and incest in a portrayal of a farming family in a remote mountain setting.

Also banned at home – in this case, Morocco – is Much Loved by Nabil Ayouch about the lifestyles of four young prostitutes. The film is a portrait of a Moroccan society which is complicit in condemning them, while at the same time exploiting them.

The festival opens with Loin des Hommes (Far From Men) by David Oelhoffen, which takes place during the Algerian civil war and portrays the struggle of a French teacher caught in the crossfire between the two sides. Viggo Mortensen plays a teacher trying to preserve his humanity and stay out of the escalating violence.

The festival’s closing night film is Il Racconto dei Rocconti (Tale of Tales) by Matteo Garone, an imaginative adaptation of three stories by Neapolitan writer Giambattista Basile. It stars Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel and John C Reilly.

In between those two films, there will be a strong representation of cinema developments from throughout Asia, highlighted by several entries from India and China, but also including works from Japan, South Korea and Pakistan, in addition to the Vietnamese film The Inseminator.

Among the Chinese entries, the film vying in the Cinemasters competition for the Best International Film is Red Amnesia by director Wang Xiaoshuai, a strong psychological drama of an ageing woman who is forced to confront her guilt over actions she had committed during the Cultural Revolution. Further entries from China are The Taking of Tiger Mountain (director: Tsui Hark), The Golden Era (Ann Hui), Brotherhood of Blades (Lu Yang), Gyeongju (Lu Zhang) and Poet On A Business Trip (Ju Anqi).

“Chinese films are among the most exciting in the world right now,” said Bernhard Karl, the programme director for festival in charge of acquiring films from Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

“This year we are presenting a quality selection across genres, styles and regions.”

India is represented by four films: Court by Chaitanya Tamhane, Sunrise (Partho Sen-Gupta), The Fourth Direction (Gurvinder Singh) and Labour of Love (Aditya Vikram Sengupta). From neighbouring Pakistan comes Daughter (Afia Nathaniel).

“Indian film has reinvented itself in spectacular fashion in recent years. A radical young arthouse cinema has developed in just a few years in various regions of the country,” Karl said.

Rounding out the Munich Film Festival programme are some three dozen German films made for cinema and German television, while director Jean-Jacques Annaud (The Name of the Rose) and actor Rupert Everett will be honoured with special CineMerit lifetime achievement awards.

Also, there will be a complete retrospective of the films of US Oscar-winning director Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, Nebraska), with Payne to be on hand to meet the film-going public, as well as a show about the 1960s US pop artist Andy Warhol (Yes! Yes! Yes! Warholmania in Munich) in co-operation with the Brandhorst Museum.

The open-air evening programme is devoted to swing music, with such classics as The Glenn Miller Story (director: Anthony Mann), The Cotton Club (Francis Ford Coppola), Kansas City (Robert Altmann), and Sweet and Lowdown (Woody Allen).

This year the festival has been lengthened by a day to cope with increasing ticket demand after last year’s drew a near-capacity 76 000 movie-goers.

The festival ends with the awards ceremonies including the top two prizes, Cinemasters for the Best International Film and CineVision for Best New Director.