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Berlin film festival kicks off with costume drama on French revolution

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BERLIN - A costume drama set during the French revolution and starring Diane Kruger as Marie Antoinette kicked off the annual Berlin film festival Thursday — the first of the year's major European film festivals.

"Farewell My Queen," from French director Benoit Jacquot, was the first of 18 films competing for the top Golden Bear award at the festival, which runs until Feb. 19.

Set during the first days of the revolution in 1789, it follows events from inside the queen's quarters — from blissful ignorance until Marie Antoinette "finally realizes that things are coming to end," Kruger said.

"A lot of people have judged her. Some think she was a poor little party girl that was put in a situation that she was just overwhelmed by," she added. "Others think she was a terrible queen and spoiled and rotten. I was trying to not judge her."

"It was definitely one of the most challenging parts I've had, and then it's (in) 18th-century French, which doesn't help either," Kruger said.

An eight-member jury led by British director Mike Leigh will choose this year's winner of the Golden Bear and other awards.

The jury also includes actor Jake Gyllenhaal and Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director of last year's Golden Bear-winning film, "A Separation."

The mid-winter Berlin festival can't always compete for glamor and star power with its counterparts in Cannes and Venice, but it is known for its accessibility to the public. Leigh said he enjoys the event for "its spirit, its atmosphere, its informality."

Farhadi's film won best foreign-language film honours at the Golden Globes last month and is competing for the same award at this year's Oscars.

Winning in Berlin last year "attracted different audiences, more audiences to the film all around the world and that was very important for the film," Farhadi said Thursday.

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