The 2013 Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear, handed out earlier this evening, went to Calin Peter Netzer's mix of social critique and family drama Child's Pose / Pozitia copilului. Co-written by Netzer and Razvan Radulescu, the Romanian film portrays a wealthy, domineering woman's efforts to buy freedom for her selfish, pampered son, who has killed a child from a poor family in a traffic accident. Little regard or compassion is shown for the victim's family, while Romanian authorities (much like those elsewhere) are all too eager to side with the rich and powerful. (Image: Luminita Gheorghiu Child's Pose.)
In Netzer's film, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu's co-star Luminita Gheorghiu plays the mother, Bogdan Dumitrache is her son, while 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days' Vlad Ivanov has a supporting role. Curiously, both Gheorghiu and Ivanov are Los Angeles Film Critics Association award winners in the supporting categories for their aforementioned two films (Gheorghiu in 2006, Ivanov in 2007).
Of note, the original Romanian title of Child's Pose, Pozitia copilului, is apparently a play with words: according to an online translator, the title means "Your Baby's Position," in reference to Dumitrache's troubled character, while the expression pozitia corpului translates as "Position of the Body," which could be used in reference to the child killed in the traffic accident.
As quoted in the Los Angeles Times, Child's Pose producer Ada Solomon called attention to the current plight of Romanian filmmakers (though those elsewhere in crisis-plagued Europe could surely relate): "Romanian politicians should pay much more attention to the kind of ambassador Romanian cinema is for our country around the world." Solomon, who remarked that she and Netzer would not have been able to get Child's Pose off the ground today, also thanked art house film distributors for their stance against "commercial censorship."
Berlin Film Festival 2013 Grand Jury Prize: An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker
The Grand Jury Prize Silver Bear, or the runner-up award, was given to another movie from Southeast Europe: writer-director Danis Tanovic's Bosnian drama An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker, which also earned amateur performer and metal-scrap collector and seller Nazif Mujic the Best Actor prize. Based on real-life events, Tanovic's film features an impoverished Roma (Gypsy) family – playing themselves – at odds with a sociopolitical system that both neglects and discriminates against them. Best Actor Mujic told the media that he continues to collect scrap metal to support his family.
Danis Tanovic's Bosnian War comedy-drama No Man's Land, the Best Screenplay winner at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, went on to take home the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Expect An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker to be Bosnia and Herzegovina's submission for the 2013 Oscar; and don't be too surprised if Romania submits Child's Pose.
Luminita Gheorghiu in Child's Pose and Calin Peter Netzer / Ada Solomon photos: © Berlin Film Festival
Berlin 2013's Best Director was David Gordon Green for Prince Avalanche, starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as two men who develop an unlikely friendship while repainting traffic lines on an isolated country highway. Green also wrote the Prince Avalanche screenplay, from an original story by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson.
Best Actress winner Paulina Garcia is the star of Sebastián Lelio's Chilean comedy-drama Gloria, the tale of a 58-year-old divorcee who rediscovers the possibility of romance in the form of a naval officer in his mid-60s. Roadside Attractions will distribute the well-received Gloria in the United States.
Berlin 2013: Jafar Panahi strikes again
The Berlin 2013 Best Screenplay Award went to Jafar Panahi and Kamboziya Partovi for Closed Curtain / Pardé. While accepting the trophy, Partovi remarked that "it's never been possible to stop a thinker and a poet." Indeed, although Iranian political prisoner Panahi has been banned from making movies, he keeps on making them, which then go on to festival screenings and international acclaim. Late last year, This Is Not a Film was one of the semi-finalists for the Best Documentary Academy Award.
Now, do not expect Iran's rabid theocratic government to submit Closed Curtain for the 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The film follows a writer (Partovi) living with a small dog – condemned to death for being "unclean" – in an isolated beach house. Writer and dog have their existence disrupted following the arrival of a young couple (who might be brother and sister) on the run from the authorities for having taken part in a beach party. Closed Curtain was reportedly shot at Panahi's own beach house.
Other Berlin 2013 winners
Among the other Berlin Film Festival 2013 winners was Dennis Côte's semi-experimental Canadian drama Vic + Flo Saw a Bear / Vic et Flo ont vu un ours, which received the Alfred Bauer Prize given to a feature that "opens new perspectives." Featured players include Romane Bohringer as the ex-con Flo, Pierrette Robitaille as Flo's former cell mate and lover Vic, and C.R.A.Z.Y. star Marc-André Grondin.
The 2013 Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution went to cinematographer Aziz Zhambakiyev for his work on Emir Baigazin's Kazakh drama Harmony Lessons, about school bullying in rural Kazakhstan.
The Laos-based drama The Rocket, written and directed by Australian filmmaker Kim Mordaunt, was given the Best First Feature Award. On the IMDb, The Rocket is described thus: "A boy who is believed to bring bad luck to everyone around him leads his family and two new friends through Laos to find a new home."
The Golden Bear for Best Short Film went to Jean-Bernard Marlin's The Runaway / La Fugue, set in an impoverished Marseille suburb, while the Jury Prize Silver Bear was given to Stefan Kriekhaus' Remains Quiet / Die Ruhe Bleibt.
And finally, two films earned special mentions, Pia Marais' Layla Fourie and Gus Van Sant's Promised Land, for the "integrity of their vision and their conviction that cinema can make a difference." The German / South African thriller Layla Fourie features Rayna Campbell in the title role as a woman hiding an ugly secret. Starring Matt Damon, John Krasinski, and Frances McDormand, Promised Land follows two corporate salespeople attempting to buy local drilling rights from the residents of a rural community. Van Sant's film received little critical attention in the U.S. upon its release and went mostly unnoticed by audiences.
The 2013 Berlin Film Festival jury was headed by Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love, The Grandmaster). The other jury members were Susanne Bier (Love Is All You Need, In a Better World), Tim Robbins (Dead Man Walking, Green Lantern), Shirin Neshat (Women Without Men, Rapture), Athina Rachel Tsangari (Attenberg, Before Midnight), Andreas Dresen (Summer in Berlin, Stopped on Track), and Ellen Kuras (The Betrayal - Nerakhoon, Be Kind Rewind).
Aziz Zhambakiyev, Paulina Garcia, David Gordon Green photos: © Berlin Film Festival.