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"50 Shades of Grey" premieres at Berlin arthouse festival this week

The Berlin International Film Festival awards heavy European arthouse movies, so blockbuster won't be competing for main prize
Actress Dakota Johnson arrives to the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the BevChristopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Reuters –Two blockbusters will have world premieres at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival opening on Thursday, but neither "50 Shades of Grey" nor the new Disney live-action "Cinderella" will compete for the main Golden Bear prize.

That's because the festival is more geared to arthouse films, which it will have aplenty from directors including Terrence Malick, Peter Greenaway, Wim Wenders and Pablo Larrain.

In all, 23 films are being screened in competition of which 19 are in contention for the main prize, to be awarded on February 14, the festival says.

This year's lineup will be "the usual mixture of anorexia, religious fanaticism, child abuse and torture", Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick said - tongue in cheek but only partly so.

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"That's what we show - and when you look at the news you can see that our program is situated right in the middle of today's social and political debate."

In that vein, Chilean director Larrain's "The Club" is about four disgraced priests living together in a refuge who have trouble adjusting to the arrival of a fifth.

Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska's "Body" is the story of a police investigator and single parent having to balance the demands of work with bringing up his anorexic daughter.

Such films assure the festival remains true to its roots, but the film adaptation of the international best-selling S&M soft-porn novel, plus Cate Blanchett as Cinderella's stepmother in the film directed by Kenneth Branagh, focus world attention.

Kosslick is unfazed by the suggestion that the festival is cashing in by showing "50 Shades", based on the E.L. James novels that have sold 100 million copies worldwide.

"We would have been nuts to pass up having the premier in the Zoo Palace (a newly restored Berlin cinema). Millions of people want to see this film. It's going to be a hit, in the true sense of the word," he said.

Similarly, "Cinderella" not only has star power but also is welcome on the basis of historical precedent. Disney's animated "Cinderella" won the Golden Bear for best musical film at the first Berlinale in 1951.

"You can't have a diet only of films about child prostitution and rape and poverty, you need something to shake it up," Jay Weissberg, Rome-based film critic for trade publication Variety, said.

"Is 'Cinderella' going to be that one? I have no idea, but at least it brings some stars onto the red carpet and that's a vital part of any festival."

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