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Berlin fest closes after Iranian triumph
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 21 - 02 - 2011

Director Asghar Farhadi (R) poses with the Golden Bear award for Best Film together with actresses Sareh Bayat (L) and Sarina Farhadi, who won the Silver Bear award for Best Actress, during the awards ceremony at the 61st Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Sunday. (Reuters)
BERLIN: The Berlin film festival wrapped up Sunday after handing a gripping Iranian drama, “Nader and Simin: A Separation”, its Golden Bear top prize in a year spotlighting the country's embattled directors.
The picture by Asghar Farhadi, which also swept the acting prizes, tells the story of a crumbling marriage and examines the conflict between strict religious observance and the shifting values of the educated urban elite.
It had been the hot favorite among 16 international contenders to win the coveted Golden Bear at the first major European film festival of the year, which tends to reward timely, politically charged cinema.
Farhadi, who had already won a best director prize for his haunting film “About Elly” at the 2009 Berlinale, paid tribute to banned Iranian director Jafar Panahi in his acceptance speech.
He told reporters later that film-making was his means of political expression, rather than public declarations, and that the prize would ensure wide exposure for his picture. “I prefer to make my films and try to express myself in my films. I am a filmmaker, I am not a hero,” he said after the awards ceremony.
“If I had said something on the stage, would that have changed anything? But my films can change something.” The 11-day event focused on the plight of Iran's film-makers, offering a seat on the jury to Panahi, presenting a retrospective of his work and leaving one chair vacant for him at every competition screening. The international jury led by Italian-American actress Isabella Rossellini also gave the Silver Bear prizes for best actor and best actress to the entire ensemble of “Nader and Simin”.
Berlin's daily Der Tagesspiegel said that the picture offered incisive insights into the disaffection behind the current street protests in Iran and the Arab world. “The Golden Bear goes to a disturbing drama about the social dynamite embedded in the new Arab start in the modern age: if you've seen the film, you understand the news differently,” it wrote. The Silver Bear runner-up Jury Grand Prix went to the visually arresting “The Turin Horse” by Hungarian veteran Bela Tarr, tracing the hardscrabble lives of two peasants and their long-suffering steed.
German filmmaker Ulrich Koehler won the Silver Bear for best director for “Sleeping Sickness” about European aid workers in Africa caught between fascination and frustration with their environment and a longing for home. US independent director Joshua Marston and his co-writer Andamion Murataj claimed best screenplay for “The Forgiveness of Blood”, the story of an Albanian blood feud.
– Agence France


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