Turkish director Semih Kaplanoglu won the Berlin Film Festival’s coveted Golden Bear for best movie, with controversial Polish-French filmmaker Roman Polanski honoured by the Berlinale.
Kaplanoglu’s movie, Bal (Honey), about a young boy who goes in search of his father after he fails to return home was one of 20 films competing for the top awards at the 60th anniversary Berlinale.
The slow-moving Bal completes Kaplanoglu’s trilogy of films, which charts the life of a man called Yusuf in rural Turkey. The two previous instalments were called Egg and Milk.
Relating how a bear smelling honey approached the production team as they were shooting the film, Kaplanoglu said, “The bear is now back.” However, Polanski was not on hand to accept the prize of best director for his political thriller The Ghost Writer as the 76-year-old Oscar-winning director is at present under house arrest in his Swiss chalet facing US extradition moves for a 1977 underage sex case.
Accepting the prize for Polanski, the filmmaker’s producer Alain Sarde said he believed that the director of Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby would be very happy with the prize.
“However, when I was lamenting with him that he cannot be with us, he said to me, ‘Even if I could, I wouldn’t because the last time I went to a festival to get a prize, I ended up in jail’” One of the world’s top three film festivals, the Berlinale’s main programme included 18 world premieres as well as three debut features.
Unlike Berlin’s rivals in Cannes and Venice, the Berlinale opens its door to the public with a record over 300,000 people braving sub-zero temperatures and the treacherous icy streets around the festival’s main venues to turn up for the festival.
Eastern Europe also emerged as a major winner of the evening with a slew of major awards going to movies from Romania and Russia.
Romanian director Florin Serban won two prizes for Eu cand vreau sa fluier, fluiere (If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle), about a young man in a youth detention centre who is facing up to the new realities that have emerged following the fall of communism.
In addition to the Alfred Bauer prize for opening up new perspectives in cinema, Serban won the Berlinale’s jury Grand Prix prize - Silver Bear.
The Berlinale awards for Eu cand vreau sa fluier, fluiere adds to the growing international recognition of Romanian filmmaking.
A decade ago there were no feature films being made in Romania.
Now Romanian filmmakers have been at the forefront of moves to revive the cinema business in Central and Eastern Europe after it essentially imploded two decades ago in the wake of the fall of communism.
Grigori Dobrygin, 24, and Sergei Puskepalis, 43, shared the Silver Bear for best actor for their roles as two men attempting to carve out a relationship of trust against the sweeping landscape of a deserted Arctic island, in Russian director Alexei Popgrebsky’s Kak ya provel etim letom (How I Ended This Summer).
Speaking after being awarded the prize, Puskepalis said: “There was a third actor in the film and that was the landscape.” Indeed, How I Ended This Summer cameraman Pavel Kostomarov won the Silver Bear for best artistic achievement.
The two most prominent films from Japan in the Berlinale were also awarded by the festival’s international jury, headed by veteran German director Werner Herzog.
The Silver Bear for best actress went to Shinobu Terajima for Japanese director’s Koji Wakamatsu’s tough anti-war film Caterpillar.
The festival’s Golden Camera award went to Japanese master director Yoji Yamada and Berlinale regular, whose film Otouto (About Her Brother) was the Berlinale’s closing film.
Wang Quan’an and Na Jin won a Silver Bear for scriptwriting for Tuan Yuan (Apart Together). Wang also directed the film, which opened the festival and is a love story set against the tensions between Taiwan and mainland China.
Accepting the prize, Wang dedicated the award to Berlin, whose history has been marked by division. Wang won the Golden Bear in 2007 for Tuya’s Marriage.
Iranian-born and Swedish-based director Babak Najafi won the Berlinale prize for best first feature for Sebbe, about the life of a 15-year-old boy living in a small apartment with his single mother.