French church sexual abuse film headlines Berlinale Film Festival

(Photo: Anli Serfontein)The director of the Berlinale Film Festival Dieter Kosslick (l) addresses a press conference in Berlin on Jan. 29, 2019.

BERLIN - The private is political, the director of the Berlinale Film Festival Dieter Kosslick underlined one week before the biggest audience-driven film festival in the world opens its doors from February 7-17.

He announced the final line-up at a press conference in Berlin on Jan. 29.

Kosslick highlighted one of the competition films which picks up the real-life theme of sexual abuse in Catholic and Protestant churches and how the perpetrators were protected by the church hierarchy.

Before the Berlinale even started one of the competition films by award-winning French director Francois Ozon's- Grâce à Dieu (By the Grace of God) has already attracted considerable publicity.

The film is based on true story of a former altar boy François Devaux in the Diocese of Lyon, France.

Devaux went public with allegations that a local priest, Bernard Preynat, had abused him as a child 25 years earlier.

He went on to form a victim's group as the systematic abuse was covered by the bishop.

"The film is impressive and also has something universal," Kosslick told reporters.

After court proceedings began in Lyon on January 7, 2019, accompanied by extensive media coverage, Kosslick announced that the Berlinale will show the film at the beginning of the festival.

It is set to have its world premiere in Berlin on Friday February 8.

At the time he said, "Grâce à Dieu - about the sexual abuse of children that went on for years in the archdiocese of Lyon - shows how relevant cinema can be."

During the Ecumenical Jury reception on Sunday February 10, the honorary prize of INTERFILM and SIGNIS will be awarded to Dieter Kosslick.

He is this year retiring as the director of the Berlinale after 18 years at the helm.

The Ecumenical Jury will also award three film prizes.

Kosslick said that last year the #MeToo debate was raging during the festival and it has been taken to heart by the festival organizers.

This year attempting to achieve more gender parity seven of the 17 films (or 41 percent) in the main International Competition, competing for the Golden Bear are by women directors.

They include the opening film, Lone Scherfigs "The Kindness of Others."

Kosslick praised it as a progress compared to last year's 21 percent women directors or not a single woman director in 2005.

Few Hollywood stars will this year walk the red carpet in Berlin.

The International Jury is headed by French actress Juliette Binoche, well-known for her roles in Philip Kaufman's the Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) and Anthony Minghella's The English Patient for which she received an Oscar in 1997.

Others on the jury of six, are the film critic of the Los Angeles Times, Justin Chang and the film curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Rajendra Roy.

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