This year’s Berlinale wrapped up this week, with the top prizes going to two low-budget East European films, quirky comedy director David Gordon Green, and an Iranian dissident currently under house arrest.
The festival’s number one prize, the coveted Golden Bear, went to a Romanian film called Pozitia Copilului, or Child’s Pose. Directed by Calin Peter Netzer, the film tells the story of Cornelia (Luminita Gheorghiu), a mother attempting to save her son from prosecution by any means necessary after he hits a teenager with his car. The film is an intriguing exploration of class and wealth in a post-communist society.
The Silver Bear for the Grand Jury Prize went to Bosnian docudrama An Episode in the Life of an Ironpicker, directed by Danis Tanovic. The film had a budget of only €17,000, and is based on the true story of a Roma couple who are denied urgent medical treatment. Lead actor Nazif Mujic, who also lived this story for real, was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Actor. Best Actress went to Paulina Garcia for her role in Gloria by Sebastian Lelio.
The Best Director Silver Bear went to David Gordon Green (director of Pineapple Express, and Your Highness) for his comedy drama Prince Avalanche. The film stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as two highway road workers putting the world to rights while isolated in the wilderness.
Best Screenplay was awarded to Jafar Panahi and Kamboziya Partovi for their script Pardé, or Closed Curtain. Both directors are Iranian dissidents who were forced to make the film in secret after Panahi was banned from film-making by Tehran. Closed Curtain is a unique mix of fiction, documentary and surrealism, centring on a small group of people in a lakeside house. Kamboziya collected the award alone, as Panahi is currently under house arrest. Iran has already registered their extreme disapproval of a Berlinale Silver Bear being given to what they consider to be an illegal film.
Another highlight of this year’s Berlinale was the premiere of Dark Blood, the last film to feature River Phoenix prior to his untimely death in 1993. Phoenix died of an overdose just ten days before filming was due to end, leaving the film incomplete. Dark Blood is the tale of a young widower (Phoenix) with Native American ancestry who lives alone in the desert and kidnaps a couple from Hollywood. Although the film is unfinished, director George Sluizer has described the film as ‘a chair with three legs…the fourth leg will always be missing, but the chair will be able to stand upright.’