Berlin's Film Festival battle for the Golden Bears

Other News Materials 14 February 2008 05:10 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The Berlin Film Festival might be the first major event on the global movie business' calendar for the year with the Oscars hard on its heels a week later.

But it is rare that the Berlinale and the Academy Awards share much in common in selecting movies for their top prizes.

For the most part, the films that do well at the Berlinale, which tends to celebrate edgy and more political cinema, are not the ones that score well at the Academy Awards in Hollywood.

However, this year could be different with US director Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood starring Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of the ruthless but charismatic oilman Daniel Plainview emerging as the clear favourite to scoop the Berlinale's top honours.

The Berlinale's gala award ceremony on Saturday will be followed about a week later with Oscar night in Los Angeles with There Will Be Blood having been nominated for eight Academy Awards including Day-Lewis for best actor for his towering performance in the film.

Apart from a successful launch into the European film market, success in Berlin could help to give Anderson's film new momentum in the buildup to the Academy Awards at the end of the month.

While Oscar night glitz is hard to beat, the 58th Berlinale has also scored well in the race among the world's leading film festivals for solid quota of glamour with some of the top stars taking to the red carpet in Berlin.

The Rolling Stones helped to kick off this year's Berlinale a glittering launch with Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese's concert movie of what is one of the world's greatest pop groups, which was seen by critics more as public relations coup for the festival than cinematic success.

In fact, a large number of the about 400 films from around the world to be shown during the 10-day festival will mark career highlights of what are essentially members of rock royalty.

As a result, music icons such as Neil Young and Patti Smith have been rubbing shoulders in Berlin with actors such as Eric Bana, Penelope Cruz, Ben Kingsley, Daniel Day-Lewis and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

Madonna also whipped up a media storm in Berlin with her directing debut, Filth and Wisdom, a comedy about the dreams of ordinary people and starring Richard E Grant, but which was not part of the festival's main competition.

Drawing together music and film may have been a major theme of this year's Berlinale but in several of the movies screened it has been cities, gardens and even sparrows that have prominent roles.

A batch of movies has also touched on life in Muslim nations including the struggle for gay rights and the battle of a German women's football team to play in Iran.

But after a disappointing and slow start, the competition for the festival's top honours, the Golden and Silver Bears, has started to tighten as the festival enters its final days with several favourites having emerged as possible favourites for prizes.

This includes British director Mike Leigh's Happy Go Lucky, about a carefree London teacher and 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.

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 that have been included in the Berlinale's main competition.

Other movies that have been winning 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, Standard Operating Procedure by Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris' detailed examination of the scandal unleashed by photos detailing abuse at the Iraqi jail has also proven popular with many film reviewers at the Berlinale.

But one thing most attending the festival agree: formidable acting performances have been a feature of this year's Berlinale.

This includes not just Day-Lewis but also 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 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 also a leading contender as well for a best acting award in Berlin.

With this in mind Costa Gavras and his jury are likely to find itself spoilt for choice in trying to decide who award the top acting honours to from this year's lineup.