Matt Damon's investigation of the fracking issue headlines the first batch of Berlin announcements.
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14 Dec 2012 - 11:26 AM  UPDATED 14 Dec 2012 - 11:26 AM

The Berlin Film Festival's first competition films were announced yesterday, with Gus Van Sant's fracking drama Promised Land and Ulrich Seidl's Paradise: Hope as the stand-outs.

In politicised Berlin, Promised Land was a no-brainer for the festival where Jessica Yu's Erin Brockovich-starring fracking documentary Last Call at the Oasis had screened last year. This time it will be Matt Damon sprouting the (much-needed) message as the project has been his brainchild. Originally he was to direct the screenplay which he co-penned with The Office's John Krasinski (who also co-stars), but instead enlisted his friend and director on Good Will Hunting and Gerry. Given Damon plays the lead role it was probably a good idea. Damon takes the part of a salesman for a natural gas company who experiences life-changing events after arriving in a small town, where his corporation wants to tap into the local resources. The film releases here May 2.

Sixty-year old Austrian Ulrich Seidl is really on a roll with his 2012 Paradise trilogy (Austria/France/Germany). Paradise: Love competed in Cannes, Paradise: Faith took out the Special Jury Prize in Venice and there's a good chance Berlin jurors will not overlook his effort when Paradise : Hope screens there in February. The competition jury is headed by Wong Kar-wai, with other jury members still to be announced.

Besides Promised Land all the newly announced films are world premieres.

IN COMPETITION

Gloria, directed by Sebastián Lelio, (Chile).

Nobody's Daughter Haewon, directed by Hong Sangsoo, (South Korea). The follow-up to his Cannes entry In Another Country starring French actress Isabelle Huppert.

Child's Pose, directed by Calin

OUT OF COMPETITION

Redemption Impossible: Screening in the Berlinale Special is this German documentary by Christian Rost and Claus Strigel. It focuses on a rehabilitation project in Austria for chimps used in pharmaceutical testing.

The Croods (releasing here 4 April) from the director of Space Chimps (!!) Kirk De Micco and co-director Chris Sanders the 3-D movie features the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds.

French filmmaker and producer Claude Lanzmann will receive a lifetime achievement award at the festival. Most famous for his epic 1985 documentary Shoah, a nine-and-a-half hour documentary about the genocide of European Jews that screened in the Berlin in 1986, the 87 year-old also made Tsahal, about women and men who serve in the Israeli Army, and Sobibor, 14 octobre 1943, 16 heures, about the 1943 revolt in the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland.

While the finer details are still to be announced, the big news for Australia at the Berlinale is a special series devoted to the cinematic story-telling of Indigenous peoples worldwide: NATIVe – A Journey into Indigenous Cinema. The programme will introduce audiences to the milestones of Indigenous filmmaking and includes features, documentaries and short films. The regional focus of the first year's programme will be on Australia, New Zealand/Oceania, Canada and the United States, the four pillars of Indigenous cinematic culture, according to the festival.

With the help of Indigenous film experts, curator Maryanne Redpath is putting together a diverse programme which will comprise discussions between experts, filmmakers and audiences before and following the films will give greater insight into the culturally diverse and politically, economically and artistically charged history of Indigenous cinema and its creators.

The Berlin Film Festival is scheduled for Feb. 7-17, 2013.