Coppola, Ang Lee star at Beirut film festival

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The Independent Culture
(AFP) -

Legendary US director Francis Ford Coppola and Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee are the star attractions at this year's Beirut International Film Festival, which showcases films from across the globe.

The festival opens on Wednesday with Coppola attending a screening of his latest production "Tetro," the story of two brothers reunited after a 10-year separation.

"This year we have something very special," said festival director Colette Naufal.

"I think we've really jumped very high by having Francis Ford Coppola here as well as a fabulous collection of films from all over the world, from countries as far as Japan and The Netherlands," she told AFP.

Coppola, 70, is a multiple Oscar-winning cinematographer and remains best known for his trilogy, "The Godfather."

The festival also hosts acclaimed filmmaker Ang Lee, 65, who will attend the screening of his latest film "Taking Woodstock" at the closing ceremony on Wednesday next week.

Lee's works include award-winning films "Brokeback Mountain" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

The October 7-14 festival will showcase some 40 international and Arab feature films and documentaries, as well as Arab short films.

The selection is "one of the best in festival history," Naufal said, adding that all 1,300 seats were fully booked for both opening and closing nights.

After a three-year hiatus, the Beirut International Film Festival (BIFF) made a strong comeback in 2006 despite a devastating war between Hezbollah and Israel that summer.

Experimental films are set to make a strong show this year with films that include American director Jim Jarmusch's "The Limits of Control," the story of a loner's journey across Spain and his own consciousness.

Another highlight is Dutch filmmaker Coco Schrijber's "Bloody Mondays and Strawberry Pies," an exploration of human boredom narrated by John Malkovich.

Arab directors also appear in abundance, with eight full-length features and 15 short films from Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco and the Palestinian Territories.

"Help", by Lebanese Mark Abi Rached, a film initially banned in the director's homeland, traces the story of a 14-year-old boy who finds a mother-figure in a local prostitute.

Sabine Gemayel's "Niloofar" tells the tale of a 13-year-old Iraqi girl who goes to great lengths to postpone her first period in an attempt to evade an arranged marriage.

BIFF president Alice Edde said the festival's next task would be to convince Coppola to translate contemporary Lebanese history to the silver screen.

"Our real challenge is to convince the brilliant director Francis Ford Coppola to create a memory, a masterpiece, inspired by the recent tragedies in the history of Lebanon," Edde said at a press conference announcing the festival launch.

"I have a vision of seeing this festival, and Lebanon, leaving behind the uncertainty that left us frozen in history and resuming our path, the path which shaped the cultural history of the eastern Mediterranean."

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