'U-Carmen' barely on Berlin fest radar

It’s hard to remember a movie winning a major festival prize that has been so completely ignored during the event itself than Berlin Golden Bear winner “U-Carmen eKhayelitsha.”

As debate swirled throughout the fest among critics and buyers about the relative merits of all the contenders, “U-Carmen” passed virtually without notice.

The blame for this may lie in an unexpected quarter. Peter Aalbeck Jensen, the maverick topper of Denmark’s Trust Film, has foisted many good jokes upon the world of arthouse cinema (the career of Lars Von Trier, for a start), but this may prove, albeit inadvertently, to be one of his finest.

The press screening of “U-Carmen” took place at 9 a.m. on the morning after Trust’s notoriously debauched annual Berlin party the night before. This explained why the cinema was, if not exactly deserted, then certainly (according to one iron-livered witness) only half-full; and why so many critical round-ups of the fest, in the British newspapers at least, mysteriously omitted to mention “U-Carmen” at all.

But it’s success has not gone unnoticed back in its home country, South Africa.

Finance Minister Trevor Manual constantly praised the film during his annual budget speech in Parliament on Feb. 23.

All the pols received a special pre-release CD of the film’s soundtrack instead of the fruit and trees that Manual usually gives pols on budget day.

Manual said the producers “moved heaven and earth” to organize the pre-release copies. In return, he pledged that the MPs would still go to the movie, buy copies of the CD — and continue to support the arts.

(Christelle De Jager in Johannesberg contributed to this report).

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