Berlinale rewards Asian cinema

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Hollywood stars may have dominated the red carpets at the Berlin Film Festival, but it was Chinese cinema that swept the board at the awards ceremony.

Compared to other festivals in Cannes or London, the Berlinale has always been more inclined to select films for the international festival circuit rather than big box office draws. This year was no exception. Festival director Dieter Kosslick told euronews why the Berlinale stands out from other similar events:

“I think what makes the Berlinale so special is that it’s a film festival open to the public, there’s nothing like it anywhere else – this year we sold 330,000 cinema tickets,” he said.

Among the members of the jury were Iranian artist and film director Mitra Farahani, China’s Tony Leung and James Bond Producer Barbara Broccoli from the United States. The jury’s president was award-winning screenwriter James Schamus.

“It’s actually easier when people are coming from so many different places because you listen more carefully. When you are with friends and you have a disagreement you feel like: how is this possible, we should all agree? When you are in a jury with so many different prospectives you actually learn to listen and thats one of the great pleasures being in a jury here in Berlin,” said James Schamus.

The Golden Bear for Best Film went to Chinese crime thriller ‘Black Coal, Thin Ice’ by Diao Yinan about a washed-up ex-cop investigating a series of grisly murders. The film also earned its lead Liao Fan the Silver Bear for Best Actor.

“My influences are European and American cinema and usually, in a crime thriller, the editing is much tighter, but I wanted to develop my own picture language – I use arthouse elements with long shots to adapt the story-telling to the emotions,” said Diao Yinan.

“I grew up in a family of actors. Ever since I was a child, I saw my mother and father on stage. One day I said to myself, ‘You can do the same,’ and I decided to become an actor,” said Liao Fan.

Haru Kuroki won the Silver Bear for Best Actress for her role in ‘The Little House’, the story of an adulterous affair set in an bourgeois household in Tokyo during World War Two.

“For this role, it was very important to learn how it feels to wear a Kimono, to understand how to move and the impact it has on your body language,” said the actress.

She plays a housemaid who falls in love with a young man who has a hidden love affair with her master’s wife. The young housemaid is torn apart between her love for this man and her loyalty to her mistress.

Veteran French film director Alain Resnais won the Alfred Bauer Prize for work of particular innovation for his play-within-a-film ‘Life of Riley’, which also picked up the Fipresci International Critics Prize for Best Film. ‘Life of Riley’ (‘Aimer, boire et chanter’ in French) is Resnais’ third adaptation of a work by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn.

In his trademark highly stylised genre, Resnais charts the woes of middle-class couples coping with problematic love lives, solitude and death.

Paying homage to Resnais, who was not in Berlin, the film’s producer, Jean-Louis Livi, said: “He is our master and our friend.”

Lead actor and French cinema icon André Dussollier also had kind words for the filmmaker:

“Dear Alain, each time you make a movie, it feels like it’s your first. You have the creator’s eternal youth, this reward suits you like all the other awards you have received. You are in our thoughts,” said Dussollier.

Richard Linklater received the Silver Bear for Best Film Director for ‘Boyhood’, a coming-of-age tale shot over 12 years with the same cast, including Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. The film also picked up the top honor from the German Art House Cinemas Guild.

“It’s a great paper weight. This is for the 400 people who worked on the film over 12 years, you know, the Best Director award means nothing to me but the fact that we had a great reception in Berlin, that we connected with audiences and felt such a connection to the movie we put out there means everything,” said Richard Linklater.

And the Silver Bear Grand Jury prize went to the festival’s opening movie, Wes Anderson’s historical caper ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’.

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