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Bosnian drama 'Grbavica' wins Berlin's Golden Bear
Mon Feb 20, 2006 6:22 PM ET
By Scott Roxborough
BERLIN (Hollywood Reporter) - "Grbavica," an emotional tale of war and rape and their consequences from first-time Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic, won the Golden Bear for best film at the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday.
"Grbavica," which left festival audiences applauding and in tears after its gala premiere, tells the story of a victim of the infamous Bosnia war "rape camps" who is forced to confess her past to her 14-year-old daughter, the product of the violation.
The film was a surprise winner at Saturday night's Berlinale gala, beating higher-profile competition entries such as Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross' "The Road to Guantanamo" and Robert Altman's "A Prairie Home Companion."
"I will be very calm because I know this is a dream and in five minutes I will wake up in Sarajevo," Zbanic said as she hoisted her golden statuette. She invited the entire "Grbavica" cast and crew on stage before adding a more somber note.
"I want to use this opportunity to remind us all that though the war in Bosnia was over some 13 years ago, war criminals still live in Europe freely," said Zbanic. "They've not been captured for organizing the rape of 20,000 women in Bosnia, killing 100,000 and for the expulsion of a million. This is Europe, and no one is interested in capturing them. I hope this film will help change your view on Bosnia."
"Grbavica " wasn't the only political film to win over the 2006 Berlin Jury. "Offside," a crowd-pleasing comic drama from Iranian director Jafar Panahi about girls in Tehran who defy that country's sex-separation laws by sneaking into soccer matches, won the Silver Bear Jury Grand Prix, a prize it shared with Danish melodrama "A Soap."
The decision to award joint Silver Bears to a Danish and an Iranian film can be seen as a political statement from this year's jury and its president, actress Charlotte Rampling. European newscasts continue to feature coverage of protests by groups of Muslims in the Middle East and Asia who are outraged over controversial Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
DIRECTING NOD TO 'GUANTANAMO'
"The Road To Guantanamo," perhaps the most politically explosive film of this year's Berlin Festival, had been tipped for the top prize, but the docudrama about three British Muslims falsely imprisoned by the U.S. had to settle for the Silver Bear for best director.
In one of the evening's most emotional moments, Winterbottom invited the former Guantanamo prisoners, the so-called Tripton Three, onto the stage to share the honor.
But the award for most emotional acceptance speech at this Berlin gala would have to go to "A Soap" director Pernille Fischer Christensen, who won the inaugural prize for best first feature in addition to the Jury Grand Prix
"Please don't make me come up here again," said the tiny, teary-eyed Christensen on her second tip to the podium. "I am so happy, I'm so surprised." The first-time director said she was amazed that a film made for less than $1 million could find such success.
Also surprising were the Berlinale acting awards, which proved a clean sweep for local talent.
"It's heavy," joked Sandra Hueller as she hefted the best actress Silver Bear she won for her harrowing performance as a girl perhaps possessed by demons in "Requiem."
The film, from director Hans-Christian Schmid, also won the European film critics' prize, the Fipresci.
Moritz Bleibtreu won the best actor Silver Bear for his starring role in Oskar Roehler's "The Elementary Particles," in which he plays a sex-addicted man looking for love. An almost manic Bleibtreu thanked everyone from his "brave, adventurous" director to the doormen who let him into the gala.
Juergen Vogel made it a triple play for German actors when he won a special Silver Bear for his artistic contribution in producing, co-writing and starring in Matthias Glasner's bleak portrayal of a serial rapist, "The Free Will."
"I think we are noticing a new power coming out of Germany, there is more courage to make different, independent films," Vogel said at a press conference after the award ceremony.
The Hong Kong drama "Isabella," one of the few Asian films in competition at this year's Berlinale, won the Silver Bear for best film music. The Alfred Bauer Prize, named for the festival's founder, went to "El Custodio" from Argentine director Rodrigo Moreno.
The winners of the 56th Berlin International Film Festival were announced at a gala ceremony at the Berlinale Palast on Saturday night. The ceremony was broadcast live in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on pubweb 3Sat.
Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 19 February 2006 0629 hrs
Bosnian rape drama 'Grbavica' wins Berlin's Golden Bear top prize - AFP
BERLIN - Bosnian drama "Grbavica" about the plight of the thousands of women raped during the Balkan wars won the Golden Bear prize for best picture at the 56th Berlin Film Festival Saturday.
British actress Charlotte Rampling, the president of the festival's jury, presented the award to director Jasmila Zbanic at a gala ceremony in the German capital after a competition dominated by politically charged themes.
"I just want to use this opportunity to remind us all that the war in Bosnia was over some 13 years ago and the war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic still live in Europe freely," said Zbanic, 31, referring to the former Bosnian Serb leader and his army chief.
"They (have not) been captured for organizing the rape of 20,000 women in Bosnia, killing 100,000 people and expelling from their houses one million. Nobody is interested to capture them."
"Grbavica", which Zbanic described as a "small film from a small country with a small budget", tells the story of the fraught relationship between an assaulted woman and the rebellious daughter she raises alone in Sarajevo without knowing which of her rapists was the father.
The picture, named after a Sarajevo suburb, was Zbanic's first feature after several documentaries and she said she hoped it would change the lives of the women it honours.
The festival's Silver Bear for directing went to British filmmakers Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross for "The Road to Guantanamo", which tells the true story of three British Muslims who were held at the US prison camp in Cuba for more than two years before being released without charge.
"There's really only three people that should get any prize because of this film and that's the three people whose story it was," Winterbottom said, before calling Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Ruhel Ahmed to the stage for a lengthy round of applause.
The Jury Grand Prix award, a runner-up prize, went to the Danish film "A Soap" about the love affair between a woman and a transsexual, and the Iranian soccer comedy "Offside".
Pernille Fischer Christensen, the director of "A Soap", also accepted a new prize for best feature film debut.
"It has taken me a very long time to come to produce my first feature," she said. "Thank you very much everybody for embracing me with your love for cinema."
Iranian director Jafar Panahi said he hoped his film, which depicts a group of girls who disguise themselves as boys to illicitly attend a soccer match, would make it past the censors in the Islamic republic.
"I have one wish: to take this movie home and have it seen by as many people as possible," he said.
Two German stars picked up the Silver Bears for acting, in a strong year for homegrown film at the international festival.
Sandra Hueller won the best actress nod for her harrowing portrayal in the true story of a epileptic girl who died in 1970s Germany after an exorcism.
"What you see in the film looks awful but I can say the process of filming the movie was a pleasure," Hueller said.
Moritz Bleibtreu, star of the film "The Elementary Particles", won the best actor prize for his performance as a sex-addict teacher in the German adaptation of the international bestseller by French literary bad boy Michel Houellebecq.
"I'd like to thank Oskar Roehler for making such a courageous film," said Bleibtreu, best known internationally for his appearance in "Run Lola Run", of the racy feature.
The Berlinale also presented two honorary Golden Bear awards during its 11-day run, to British actor Ian McKellen (the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy) and Polish director Andrzej Wayda ("Ashes and Diamonds"), for their life's work.
The festival, which ranks with Cannes and Venice among the top European film festivals, featured a total of 360 pictures from 56 countries and hosted some 18,000 guests.
It will wrap up Sunday with screenings of a restored copy of Sam Peckinpah's 1972 Western "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" and popular films from the competition.
Herewith are the winners of the main prizes awarded Saturday at the 56th Berlin Film Festival.
Golden Bear for best film: "Grbavica" by Jasmila Zbanic (Bosnia-Herzogovina)
Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear: "A Soap" by Pernille Fischer Christensen (Denmark) and "Offside" by Jafar Panahi (Iran)
Silver Bear for best actress: Sandra Hueller in "Requiem" (Germany)
Silver Bear for best actor: Moritz Bleibtreu in "The Elementary Particles" (Germany)
Silver Bear for best director: Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross for "The Road to Guantanamo" (Britain)
Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution: Juergen Vogel for "The Free Will" (Germany)
Silver Bear for best film music: Peter Kam for "Isabella" (China)
Alfred Bauer Prize for work of particular innovation: "The Minder" by Rodrigo Moreno (Argentina)
Best first feature film: "A Soap" by Pernille Fischer Christensen (Denmark)
Teddy for best film with gay or lesbian context: "The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros" by Auraeus Solito (Philippines)
- AFP /ls
Berlin Festival Honors Bosnian Film About War, Rape (Update1)
(The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Bloomberg.)
By Catherine Hickley
Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- A Bosnian drama about war and rape won the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival, with movies on political themes, including the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay and the plight of women in Iran, also scooping up awards.
``Grbavica,'' directed by Jasmila Zbanic, was awarded the Golden Bear for best film. It tells the story of a 12-year-old girl who has been told by her mother that her father died a hero's death in the war against Serbia. When doubts arise through events at her school, she confronts her mother and finds out she is the product of a rape in a prisoner-of-war camp.
``The truth is not yet fully revealed'' about the war in Bosnia, Zbanic said after the awards ceremony. ``I don't see any future in Bosnia until the truth is out. We had a cathartic experience making the film. This kind of communication helps.''
The eight-person international jury, headed by British actress Charlotte Rampling, awarded the Grand Jury runner-up prize to Iranian director Jafar Panahi's ``Offside,'' a comedy about women who disguise themselves as men to gain admittance to Tehran's soccer stadium, the preserve of men, to watch a World Cup qualifying match, only to be confronted by guards.
First-time Danish director Pernille Fischer Christensen picked up two prizes for ``En Soap'' (``A Soap''), about a beautician who falls in love with Veronica, a man who has applied for a sex-change operation. Fischer Christensen won the prize for best first film and a Silver Bear runner-up award.
Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross won Silver Bear awards for best director for ``The Road to Guantanamo,'' a dramatized account of three British Muslims imprisoned at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Winterbottom said he is trying to raise public awareness of Guantanamo, a military prison where as many as 500 detainees have been held for as long as four years, most without charges.
``I think the most shocking thing about this film is that Guantanamo exists,'' Winterbottom said after the ceremony.
A Silver Bear was also awarded to Moritz Bleibtreu for best actor in ``Elementarteilchen'' (``The Elementary Particles''), a German film based on the novel of the same name by Michel Houellebecq. Bleibtreu plays Bruno, a sex-obsessed high-school teacher who suffers a mental breakdown.
Epilepsy and Exorcism
Sandra Hueller won a Silver Bear for best actress for her role in ``Requiem,'' a German film directed by Hans-Christian Schmid. She plays Michaela, a 21-year-old woman suffering from epilepsy, whose strict Catholic background leads her to believe she is possessed and agree to undergo an exorcism ritual.
The prize for the best artistic contribution went to Juergen Vogel, the producer, co-writer and lead actor of ``Der Freie Wille'' (``The Free Will''), a German rape drama.
The Silver Bear for the best score went to Peter Kam for the music to ``Isabella,'' the story of a Chinese police officer whose daily routine is turned upside down by the appearance of a daughter he never knew he had.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Catherine Hickley in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: February 18, 2006 16:21 EST
Dreary lives take center stage in 'Soap'
Fri Feb 10, 2006 10:59 PM ET
By Kirk Honeycutt
BERLIN (Hollywood Reporter) -- In "A Soap," the characters watch American soap operas, and you envy them because the movie you're watching is appallingly dreary. This two-hander is about a sometimes awkward, sometimes compassionate relationship between a self-loathing transsexual and her downstairs neighbor, a confused woman looking for love in all the wrong places.
The movie strands you in two miserable flats with these cliche-ridden characters and a static love story that is as predictable as it is pedestrian. Unaccountably selected for competition at the Berlin International Film Festival, "A Soap" is not likely to travel far from its native Denmark.
Trine Dyrholm plays Charlotte, a thirtysomething blonde who moves out of her doctor-boyfriend's place for vague reasons. When she knocks on a neighbor's door for help in moving a bed, she meets Veronica (David Dencik), a man transitioning to a woman. The two don't get along well at first, but Veronica's suicide attempt a few nights later does bring them closer together. Each still maintains a wary distance, however.
Men shuffle in and out of both flats, as sex customers for Veronica and unsatisfying one-night stands for Charlotte. Charlotte's ex (Frank Thiel) shows up every so often to plead/berate for her return. She must get some kick out of it because she always lets him in. One night he drunkenly smacks her, so Veronica hurries downstairs to smack him back. That's what girlfriends are for.
These two characters are in such depressing, dead-end situations that they are clearly meant for each other in a way that only a truly bad movie will allow.
Pernille Fischer Christensen's repetitive, unenlightening direction of Kim Fupz Aakeson's tissue-thin script brings the pace to a crawl. Then every so often the movie stops for a narrator to go back over a few details that perhaps got lost in the shuffle.
Cinematographer Erik Molberg Hansen's harsh lighting flatters no actor. Rasmus Thjellesen's sets all too successfully reflect the dreariness of these forlorn lives.
Charlotte: Trine Dyrholm
Veronica: David Dencik
Kristian: Frank Thiel
Veronica's mother: Elsebeth Steentoff
Director: Pernille Fischer Christensen; Screenwriter: Kim Fupz Aakeson; Producer: Lars Bredo Rahbek; Executive producers: Bo Ehrardt, Birgitte Hald; Director of photography: Erik Molberg Hansen; Production designer: Rasmus Thjellesen; Music: Magnus Jarlbo; Costumes: Signe Sejlund; Editor: Asa Mossberg.