Berlin hails opera turn, 'Sophie'

This article was updated at 9:17 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2005.

BERLIN — The Berlin International Film Festival went out with a cheer Saturday as “Carmen in Khayelitsha,” an energetic adaptation of Georges Bizet’s opera set in a South African township, and local Nazi-era drama pic “Sophie Scholl – The Final Days” took the top Gold and Silver Bears at the Berlin Intl. Film Festival.

Mark Dornford-May’s directorial debut, which translates the opera into the African lingo of Xhosa, was a surprise win in a year that touted a number of politically slanted pics highlighting weighty subject matter such as the civil war in Rwanda and the despair of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

On stage with his lead actress, singer Pauline Malefane, Dornford-May said the prize belonged to the people of Khayelitsha, a township near Cape Town. Malefane accepted the award on their behalf in Xhosa before bursting into song. It was the second South African film ever to run in competition here. The first, “Marigolds in August,” screened in 1980.

The wins for “Sophie Scholl” director Marc Rothemund and actress Julia Jentsch for her portrayal of the real-life heroine of German resistance during World War II came as no surprise: the film had been a leading contender for the top prize. Pic’s Silver Bear honors underscored a strong showing by German films for the second year in a row.

In the only major win for a U.S. film, Lou Taylor Pucci took thesp kudos for his role of as a maladjusted teen in Mike Mills’ “Thumbsucker.” “It is so amazing to be recognized by Europe,” said Pucci, who picked up an acting award at last month’s Sundance Film Festival.

Hany Abu-Assad’s “Paradise Now,” about two Palestinian friends who, out of desperation, become suicide bombers, took three awards, including the Blue Angel Award for European film, the newly established Amnesty Intl. Film Prize and the Berliner Morgenpost Readers’ Prize.

Generating the most controversy at the Berlinale, “Paradise Now” drew a handful of demonstrators to the awards ceremony at the Berlinale Palast on Potsdamer Platz, protesting the film’s artistic recognition and claiming pic “divilifies anti-Semitic killings and promotes the murder of Jews.”

Accepting the Blue Angel Award, Abu-Assad said he had strived to present balance in his film, and the pic’s awards confirmed that he had succeeded in presenting an objective portrayal of the impact of Israeli occupation in Palestine.

Chinese pics also bagged a number of wins: Gu Changwei’s “Peacock,” a family drama set in a small town in the province of Henan, received the Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear, while Tsai Ming Liang’s “The Wayward Cloud,” a sexually explicit musical that attracted considerable attention, netting a Silver Bear for its script, the Alfred Bauer Prize for innovation and Fipresci kudos.

Commenting on this year’s low dosage of Hollywood glamour, Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick commented, “There were plenty of stars where I was.”

In addition to Liam Neeson, who attended the closing ceremonies, followed by the premiere of “Kinsey,” stars at this year’s fest included Keanu Reeves, Will Smith, Catherine Deneuve, Anjelica Huston, Tilda Swinton, Kevin Spacey, Daniel Day-Lewis and George Michael.

And the winners are…

GOLDEN BEAR
“Carmen in Khayelitsha” (South Africa)

SILVER BEARS
Grand Jury Prize
“Peacock” (China)

ACTRESS
Julia Jentsch (“Sophie Scholl – The Final Days Pres, ” Germany)

ACTOR
Lou Taylor Pucci (“Thumbsucker, ” USA)

DIRECTOR
Marc Rothemund (“Sophie Scholl – The Final Days, ” Germany)

INDIVIDUAL ARTISTIC CONTRIBUTION
Tsai Ming Liang (“The Wayward Cloud, ” Taiwan, China, France)

FILM MUSIC
Alexandre Desplat (“The Beat That My Heart Skipped, ” France)

BLUE ANGEL AWARD
“Paradise Now” (France, Germany, Netherlands)

ALFRED BAUER PRIZE
“The Wayward Cloud” (Taiwan, China, France)

TEDDY 2003
“A Year Without Love” (Argentina, feature)
“Feline Masquerade” (Switzerland, documentary)
“The Intervention” (USA, short)

PEACE FILM PRIZE
“Turtles Can Fly” (Iran, Iraq)

SHORTS
“Milk” (U.K., Golden Bear)
“The Intervention” (U.S.A., Silver Bear)
“Jam Sessions” (Poland, Silver Bear)
“Don Quixote in Jerusalem” (Israel, Special Mention)

PRIX UIP BERLIN
“Hi Maya” (Switzerland)

ECUMENICAL JURY PRIZE
“Sophie Scholl – The Final Days,” Germany
“Live and Become” (France, Belgium, Israel, Panorama)
“On the Objection Front” (Israel, Forum)

FIPRESCI (INT’L. CRITICS ASSN.) PRIZES
“The Wayward Cloud” (China, Competition)
” Massacre” (Germany, Lebanon, Switzerland, France, Panorama)
“Oxhide” (China, Forum)

LVT/MANFRED SALZGEBER PRIZE
“Gamblers” (France)

PANORAMA AUDIENCE AWARD
“Live and Become” (France, Belgium, Israel, feature)
“Hi Maya” (Switzerland, short)

KINDERFILMFEST CRYSTAL BEARS
“Bluebird” (Netherlands, Crystal Bear)
“The Italian” (Russia, Special Mention)
“The Color of Milk” (Norway, Sweden, Special Mention)
“The Djarn Djarns” (Australia, short, Crystal Bear)
“Does God Play Football?” (U.K., short, Special Mention)
“Vent” (Netherlands, short, Special Mention)

14plus CRYSTAL BEARS
“Innocent Voices” (Mexico, Crystal Bear)
“Turtles Can Fly” (Iran, Iraq, Special Mention)

KINDERFILMFEST INTL. JURY PRIZES
“The Italian” (Russia, Grand Prix)
“The Color of Milk” (Norway, Sweden, Special Mention)
“Little Pig is Flying” (Sweden, Denmark, short, Special Prize)
“The Little Things” (New Zealand, short, Special Mention)
“Skeleton Women” (U.K., Ireland, short, Special Mention)

GUILD OF GERMAN ART HOUSE CINEMAS PRIZE
“Asylum” (U.S., Ireland)

CICAE (intl. Confederation of arthouse cinema) PRIZES
“Ultranova” (Belgium, France, Panorama)
“Odessa Odessa …” (Israel, France, Forum)
“Starlit High Noon” (Japan, Special Mention, Forum)
“Berlin Stories” (Germany, Special Mention, Forum)

LABEL EUROPA CINEMAS PRIZES
“Mariscos Beach” (France, ex aequo)
“Live and Become” (France, Belgium, Israel, ex aequo)

PRIZE DIALOGUE EN PERSPECTIVE
“Net,” Robert Thalheim
“Dancing with Myself,” Judith Keil and Antje Kruska (Special Mention)

WOLFGANG STAUDTE AWARD
“Before the Flood” (China)

CALIGARI FILM PRIZE
“Oxhide” (China)

NETPAC PRIZE
“This Charming Girl” (South Korea)

DON QUIJOTE (intl. federation of film societies)
“The Irrational Remains” (Germany)
“Kekexili: Mountain Patrol” (China, Special Mention)

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL FILM PRIZE
“Paradise Now” (France, Germany, Netherlands)

BERLINER MORGENPOST READERS’ PRIZE
“Paradise Now” (France, Germany, Netherlands)

SIEGESSÄULE READERS’ PRIZE
“Transamerica” (U.S.)

BERLIN TODAY AWARD
“Alright Love” (Berlinale Talent Campus short)

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