Football, politics and nature are all in the picture

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 March, 2006, 12:00am

With more than 240 films on offer, this year's festival has plenty for everyone. Here are some of the highlights to watch out for:

Ethnic cinema

Minority populations have never had much of a presence on Chinese screens. This year's festival boasts two films about marginalised communities. Zhang Lu's Grain in Ear examines the bleak circumstances that befall a Korean-Chinese community in the northeast. Wanmacaidan's The Silent Holy Stones is more upbeat. In a similar vein to Bhutan's The Cup, it shows how young Tibetan lamas reconcile their traditions with television.

America, Danish-style

Lars von Trier reignites his vendetta with the US in Manderlay, the follow-up to Dogville's grisly view of small-town America. Bryce Dallas Howard steps into Nicole Kidman's shoes as Grace, who arrives at a plantation in Alabama and attempts to free the black workers - but the emancipation generates confusion and chaos. Von Trier pops up again in Thomas Vinterberg's Dear Wendy, which examines the history of violence in American gun culture.

Stop-motion beauty

James Benning was a mathematician before becoming a director, and this may explain a lot about the composition of his films. One Way Boogie Woogie, which made his name in avant-garde circles in 1977, is 60, one-minute static takes, with the camera taking in the movements - or the lack of them - in various locations around a decaying Milwaukee. The festival's intensive retrospective also presents 27 Years Later, Benning's remake of Woogie (by shooting at the same spots) in 2005, and the self-explanatory pieces 13 Lakes and Ten Skies.

The Sun in your eyes

The final instalment of Aleksandr Sokurov's trilogy about controversial 20th-century political leaders - the other two being Hitler (Moloch) and Lenin (Taurus) - The Sun maintains Sokurov's focus on his subjects' human sides. Hirohito, the emperor who presided over Japan's military aggression in the Far East during the second world war, is seen not as an evil war criminal - as some of his detractors regard him - but a childlike enthusiast of arts and science who's unaware of the ravages his generals committed in his name. Many will see The Sun as revisionist pap aimed at clearing Hirohito's name. Nonetheless, The Sun is a visual masterpiece.

Here's the pitch

With the World Cup around the corner, it's no surprise that soccer is figuring in film. Among this year's offerings is One Day in Europe, which unfurls around an imaginary Champions League final between Deportivo La Coruna and Galatasaray in Moscow. Meanwhile, three rowdy Celtic fans are central to Ken Loach's segment in Tickets.