- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

BERLIN (AP) - Prominent Chinese filmmaker Lou Ye brought a cast of blind and sighted actors to the Berlin International Film Festival on Monday with “Blind Massage,” an adaptation of a popular novel that’s set largely in a massage center run by the blind. It’s the first of three Chinese movies competing at the festival this year.


Actor Guo Xiaodong said he initially rejected the idea of playing a blind masseur but then changed his mind and prepared for the part by living for a while at a school for the blind in Nanjing, where Bi Feiyu’s novel and Lou’s film are set. Guo told reporters that he blindfolded himself and found that “when you close your eyes, your own mood changes; the world changes.”

“I became more appreciative of the things I have,” he said.


Mu Huaipeng, an amateur actor in a blind theater troupe, said he worked in a massage parlor for 20 years and relished the chance “to show everybody what this life is like” alongside actors he knew from radio broadcasts. The movie follows the dreams, desires and everyday troubles of the center’s workers.


Lou, who has won international acclaim but also run into trouble with authorities at home over the years, is joined in the 20-film race for the Berlin festival’s Golden Bear award by fellow Chinese directors Diao Yinan and Ning Hao. Diao’s “Black Coal, Thin Ice,” the story of a policeman-turned-detective investigating a series of murders in a northern Chinese town. Ning’s “No Man’s Land” portrays a society devoted to the pursuit of wealth and power. Both screen later this week.


Outside the main competition, a new film starring Diane Kruger takes viewers to a very different world: rural Indiana in 1817. Kruger plays Sarah Lincoln, the young Abraham Lincoln’s stepmother, in director A.J. Edwards’ “The Better Angels.” The German-born actress said that “it’s wonderful to learn more about such a great man and such an important man for the United States, where I live most of the time now.” She said Lincoln’s story illustrated the American dream that anything is possible - “it’s something that I myself, I think, have experienced coming to the United States and trying my luck out as an actress.”

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