Lemon Tree from Israeli director Eran Riklis won the audience prize for one of the Berlin Film Festival’s main sections Saturday as part of the buildup to the presentation of the Berlinale’s top honours at a Hollywood-style gala.
Riklis’ film was not included in the Berlinale’s main competition but was screened in the festival’s Panorama section, which showcases independent and art-house cinema.
At the same time, Iranian-born director Hana Makhmalbaf’s Buddha Collapsed out of Shame (Buda Az Sharm Foru Rikht) won the 23rd film peace prize. The prize, which is valued at 5,000 euros (7,337 dollars), was also awarded Saturday.
Makhmalbaf’s movie screened in the Berlinale’s Generation section, which is aimed at younger audiences, and focuses on a young Afghan girl who lives in the mountains near the place where the 1,500 year- old Buddha statues were blown up by the Taliban in 2001.
While there is no official tribute, Berlinale commemorated this year the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel by showing a raft of new movies from Israeli directors.
Movie-goers attending the Berlin Film Festival were asked to cast their votes for the films screened in the Panorama section, which screened a total of 52 feature films. Over 20,000 votes were cast.
Despite a slow and uninspiring start to the festival’s main competition programme, a raft of possible contenders has emerged for the festival’s grand prizes of Golden and Silver Bears with formidable acting performances having been a feature of this year’s Berlinale.
Among the favourites battling it out for one of the festival’s awards are US director Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a ruthless oilman and British director Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky about a positive-thinking Londoner called Poppy.
Both Day-Lewis and Sally Hawkins, who played the irrepressible Poppy, have been named as possibly going home with the festival’s top acting awards.
But film festival juries are notoriously difficult to predict with Greek-born director Constantin Costa-Gavras and his team having to select from more than 20 movies included in the Berlinale’s main competition.
Japanese director Yoji Yamada’s anti-war story Kabei – Our Mother as well as police political thriller Elite Squad (Tropa Squad) from Jose Padilha, which has been a box-office hit in his native Brazil, have also been lined up by reviewers to possibly grab one of the Berlin bears.
Italian director Antonello Grimald’s Quiet Chaos (Caos Calmo), which portrays a man’s struggle to come to grips with the sudden death of his wife, has also emerged as a favourite for one of the festival’s major prizes.
American independent movie maker Lance Hammer’s Ballast, a family social drama set in the Mississippi Delta – with a cast that has never acted before – has also won praise from critics in Berlin after winning a series of awards at the Sundance Film Festival.
Ballast was Californian-born Hammer’s first feature film.
Other movies that won fans at the festival have been German director Doris Doerrie’s Cherry Blossoms – Hanami (Kirschbluetten – Hanami), South Korean director Hong Sangsoo’s Night and Day (Bam Gua Nat) and young Mexican director Fernando Eimbcke’s Lake Tahoe.
Despite some criticism that it failed to shed any new light on the shocking events surrounding the Abu Ghraib prison, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris’ Standard Operating Procedure, a detailed examination of the scandal at the Iraqi jail, has also proven popular with many film reviewers at the Berlinale.
But one of the tough tasks facing the jury will be selecting the winners of the festival’s acting awards as a big field of candidates has emerged.
In addition to Day-Lewis and Hawkins, those winning acclaim in Berlin were Penelope Cruz and Ben Kingsley in Elegy about an ageing professor’s obsession with a young, self-confident woman student and Tilda Swinton who plays an alcoholic in Julia, although the film itself was badly received by reviewers.
Reza Najie’s performance as a stressed-out father trying to keep his family financially afloat in Iranian director Majid Majidi’s light poignant comedy The Song of Sparrows (Avaze Gonjeshk-Ha) is likely to have made him a leading contender as well for a best acting award in Berlin