Berlin Film Festival focuses on English-language movies & Hollywood stars: Matt Damon & George Clooney domestic flops up for Golden Bear
English-language productions dominate the Official Competition line-up at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival, which runs between Feb. 8–18. In all, 22 films are vying for the Golden Bear while four are being screened out of competition.
Most of the English-language fare hails from the United States and the United Kingdom, in addition to several American and British co-productions with other nations. A few key titles are listed below.
Golden Bear contender ‘The Good Shepherd’: Dedication to U.S. intelligence agencies leads to marital woes
Two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro (Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather: Part II, 1974; Best Actor for Raging Bull, 1980) made his feature film directorial debut with A Bronx Tale back in 1993. Thirteen years later, he returned behind the camera for the Cold War drama The Good Shepherd, starring Matt Damon as a dedicated agent at the United States’ World War II intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and co-founder of its successor, the CIA. Damon’s fellow Hollywood star Angelina Jolie was cast as his beautiful but neglected wife.
Coolly received by U.S. critics following its December 2006 debut – and a costly box office bomb – The Good Shepherd has been all but ignored this awards season. A couple of exceptions have been the works of ASC Award-nominated cinematographer Robert Richardson and Academy Award-nominated art director Jeannine Oppewall, along with set decorators Gretchen Rau and Leslie E. Rollins.
Also in the extensive (and international) The Good Shepherd cast:
Michael Gambon. Gabriel Macht. Lee Pace. Eddie Redmayne. John Turturro.
Best Supporting Actor winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, 1980).
Best Supporting Actor winner Joe Pesci (Goodfellas, 1990).
Veteran Keir Dullea (Bunny Lake Is Missing, 2001: A Space Odyssey).
Golden Bear contender ‘The Good German’: Murder mystery with a U.S.-Nazi collaboration flavor
Another coolly received box office dud with the word “good” in the title, Steven Soderbergh’s post-World War II, black-and-white murder mystery The Good German toplines Matt Damon’s Ocean’s Eleven co-star George Clooney (Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner for Syriana, 2005) as a Berlin-based American war correspondent who becomes enmeshed with the murder of a U.S. soldier/black-marketeer (Tobey Maguire) and the hunt for a missing Nazi officer (Christian Olivier) the American government wants in connection with its weapons program.
Like The Good Shepherd, The Good German has been all but ignored this awards season – with one exception: Thomas Newman’s score, which has been shortlisted for the Academy Awards.
More English-language Golden Bear contenders: Handjob expert Marianne Faithfull & inspirational inmate Nelson Mandela
Below are four more English-language titles in competition at the 2007 Berlinale.
- Sam Garbarski’s comedy-drama Irina Palm sounds like the feel-good masturbation movie of the year: 1960s icon Marianne Faithfull plays a widow who, in order to help pay for the operation of her ailing grandson, begins a new career as a handjob expert at a sex shop in London’s Soho district. Predrag ‘Miki’ Manojlovic plays the deceptively hardboiled shop owner while Kevin Bishop is Faithfull’s oh-no-mom-you-didn’t son.
- Set in Apartheid-era South Africa, Bille August’s Goodbye Bafana / The Color of Freedom toplines British actor Joseph Fiennes as a racist security guard and American actor Dennis Haysbert as the late 20th century’s most famous political prisoner, Nelson Mandela. Though supposed to be based on “redemptive” real-life events, the veracity of the tale has been questioned in various quarters. Also in the cast: Diane Kruger, Shiloh Henderson, and Tyrone Keogh.
- Based on a novel by (not that) Elizabeth Taylor, François Ozon’s early-20th-century-set Angel traces the rise and fall of an outsider who becomes the British elite’s literary flavor of the moment. In the cast: Romola Garai as the titular character, Sam Neill, and the filmmaker’s muse, veteran Charlotte Rampling (The Night Porter, The Verdict). Angel is the 2007 Berlin Film Festival’s Closing Night presentation.
- Inspired by real-life events, Gregory Nava’s Bordertown features Antonio Banderas and Jennifer Lopez in a tale of murder and intrigue at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Out of Competition: Iwo Jima & Thermopylae battles
Here are three more English-language Berlin Film Festival entries to be screened out of competition.
- Based on Lynn Varley and Frank Miller’s comics and directed by Zack Snyder, 300 depicts the Battle of Thermopylae in the year 480 B.C.E. At that decisive clash, King Leonidas of Sparta and his 300 followers confronted invader King Xerxes’ brush-stomping Persian army. Expect 300 to feature extended combat sequences glorifying bravery, honor, sacrifice, sadism, ruptured male skin, all those qualities that make wars so cool. The all-Greek/Persian cast includes Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Rodrigo Santoro, and Michael Fassbender.
- Clint Eastwood’s World War II drama Letters from Iwo Jima has been this awards season’s sleeper hit among U.S. critics. It’s also one of the few non-English-language movies ever nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. In the cast: Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, 1993), Kazunari Ninomiya, and Tsuyoshi Ihara.
- Richard Eyre’s British drama Notes on a Scandal stars Best Actress Oscar nominee Judi Dench as a lonely lesbian preying on adulterous teacher and Best Supporting Actress nominee Cate Blanchett, who has been having an affair with a 15-year-old high-schooler who, as it happens, had also been preying on her. And yet Blanchett’s teacher is the one who comes across as the predator in this superbly acted potboiler. Andrew Simpson is the film’s horny Lolito.
Where are the French?: Balzac adaptation & AIDS crisis + Edith Piaf sings again
Since François Ozon has gone the English way, it’s up to veterans Jacques Rivette, 79 next March 1, and André Téchiné, 64 next March 13, to keep la langue française up there on the Berlinale’s international competition screens.
Rivette is represented by The Duchess of Langeais / Ne touchez pas la hache (lit., “Don’t Touch the Axe”), an adaptation of Honoré de Balzac’s love story La Duchesse de Langeais, with Guillaume Depardieu, Jeanne Balibar, and veterans Michel Piccoli (Contempt) and Bulle Ogier (That Obscure Object of Desire). Jacques de Baroncelli directed Edwige Feuillère and Pierre-Richard Willm in the 1942 film version of the tale.
Téchiné is offering The Witnesses / Les témoins, a drama about the AIDS explosion of the 1980s. In the cast: Johan Libéreau, Emmanuelle Béart, Michel Blanc, Sami Bouajila, Julie Depardieu, and filmmaker Xavier Beauvois.
There’s also Olivier Dahan’s La Vie en Rose / La Môme, the festival’s Opening Night film, starring Marion Cotillard as singing legend Edith Piaf. Also in the cast: Gérard Depardieu, Sylvie Testud, Jean-Pierre Martins, Emmanuelle Seigner, and Pascal Greggory.
German-language entries ‘The Counterfeiters’ & ‘Yella’
Below are a few international entries in the Berlinale’s Official Competition line-up, including the only two German-language films vying for the Golden Bear, The Counterfeiters and Yella.
- Stefan Ruzowitzky’s World War II-set Austrian-German The Counterfeiters / Die Fälscher depicts what the Berlinale’s press release describes as “the biggest counterfeiting operation ever pulled off”: how the Nazis forged millions of British pounds – and tried to do the same with the U.S. dollar – at a counterfeiting plant that relied on the labor of Sachsenhausen concentration camp prisoners. Karl Markovics, August Diehl, Devid Striesow, and Marie Bäumer star.
- Christian Petzold’s Yella revolves around a woman who, in an attempt to escape from a wretched marriage, leaves the eastern province of Brandenburg to begin a new life in western Germany. The problem is that the past is unwilling to let her go. Nina Hoss, Hinnerk Schönemann, and The Counterfeiters’ Devid Striesow star.
- Set in the early 1970s, Cao Hamburger’s The Year My Parents Went on Vacation / O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias tells the story of a boy (Michel Joelsas) left with a relative in São Paulo’s Jewish quarter after his parents “go away on vacation” during Brazil’s bloody military dictatorship. The Brazilian-Argentinean co-production also features Paulo Autran, Germano Haiut, Daniela Piepczyk, and Caio Blat. Last year, The Year My Parents Went on Vacation won the Audience Award at the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival.
- In Saverio Costanzo’s In Memory of Myself / In memoria di me, a young priest-in-the-making (Christo Jivkov) is overcome by some mighty serious doubts before his ordination. Also in the cast: Filippo Timi and André Hennicke.
- Park Chan-wook’s I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK / Saibogujiman kwenchana has as its center a young psychiatric patient who thinks she’s an enamored cyborg. In the cast: Korean pop superstar Rain and Lim Soo-jung.
- Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort follows the men of the last Israeli battalion to leave southern Lebanon. In the cast: Alon Abutbul, Eli Eltonyo, and Yossi and Jagger actor Ohad Knoller.
Below is the full list of the 2007 Berlin Film Festival’s Official Competition & Out of Competition line-up.
Berlin Film Festival 2007: Official Competition
Angel, dir.: François Ozon, France / Belgium / U.K. (Closing Film).
Beaufort, dir.: Joseph Cedar, Israel.
Bordertown, dir.: Gregory Nava, U.S.
Desert Dream / Hyazgar, dir.: Zhang Lu, South Korea / France.
The Counterfeiters / Die Fälscher, dir.: Stefan Ruzowitzky, Germany / Austria.
The Other / El Otro, dir.: Ariel Rotter, Argentina / France / Germany.
Goodbye Bafana, dir.: Bille August, Germany / France / Belgium / U.K. / Italy.
Hallam Foe, dir.: David Mackenzie, U.K.
In Memory of Myself / In memoria di me, dir.: Saverio Costanzo, Italy.
Irina Palm, dir.: Sam Garbarski, Belgium / Germany / Luxembourg / U.K. / France.
La Vie en Rose / La Môme, dir.: Olivier Dahan, France / U.K. / Czech Republic (Opening Film).
The Witnesses / Les témoins, dir.: André Téchiné, France.
Don’t Touch the Axe / Ne touchez pas la hache, dir.: Jacques Rivette, France / Italy.
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation / O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias, dir.: Cao Hamburger, Brazil / Argentina.
I Served the King of England / Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále, dir.: Jiri Menzel, Czech Republic / Slovakia.
Lost in Beijing / Ping guo, dir.: Li Yu, China.
I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK / Saibogujiman kwenchana, dir.: Park Chan-wook, South Korea.
The Good German, dir.: Steven Soderbergh, U.S.
The Good Shepherd, dir.: Robert De Niro, U.S.
Tuya’s Marriage / Tu ya de hun shi, dir.: Wang Quan’an, China.
When a Man Falls in the Forest, dir.: Ryan Eslinger, Canada / U.S.
Yella, dir.: Christian Petzold, Germany.
Out of Competition
300, dir.: Zack Snyder, U.S.
Letters from Iwo Jima, dir.: Clint Eastwood, U.S.
Notes on a Scandal, dir.: Richard Eyre, U.K.
The Walker, dir.: Paul Schrader, U.S. / U.K.
“When I started making films, my teacher said film should show people’s dreams. This film made my dreams come true,” remarked Chinese director Wang Quan’an upon accepting the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear for his rural drama Tuya’s Marriage, a portrait of the social and environmental costs of China’s unbridled economic growth.
In Tuya’s Marriage, a woman (Yu Nan) living in desertifying Inner Mongolia (a territory in northern China) tries to find a new husband to take care of herself and of her family, including handicapped husband no. 1. “I think that it is important, particularly in this time when the economy is booming,” Wang remarked, “to ponder and reflect on what we’re losing.”
Tuya’s Marriage is the third Chinese film to win the Golden Bear in the last 20 years, following Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum (1988) and Xie Fei’s Women from the Lake of Scented Souls (1993). Last year, Jia Zhang-Ke’s Still Life, which shows the environmental and social damage caused by the building of the Three Gorges Dam, won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
The runner-up for best film was Grand Prix winner The Other, Argentinean director Ariel Rotter’s tale of a man who undergoes a mid-life crisis – including an attempt to find himself a new identity – upon learning that his partner is pregnant. For his performance as the middle-aged man, Julio Chávez (above) won the Silver Bear for best actor. Critics generally gave Rotter’s leisurely paced drama a cool reception.
The anti-war drama Beaufort, which depicts the withdrawal of an Israeli army unit from southern Lebanon, brought director Joseph Cedar a Silver Bear. At the Saturday gala ceremony, Cedar expressed his hope that “our leaders will be fearful of war and have the courage to end them.”
The Silver Bear for best actress went to Nina Hoss (above) for her role as a woman who must deal with the ghosts from her past in Christian Petzold’s German drama Yella. Hoss beat favorites Yu Nan and Marianne Faithfull, who plays a grandmother-turned-sex worker in the well-received Irina Palm – which was also one of the two or three favorites to win the Golden Bear.
“I didn’t expect this at all because of the huge competition,” Hoss told reporters. “I feel even more honored … to get this gift against Cate Blanchett [for The Good German] and Marianne Faithfull … and all those great actresses I really admire.”
Hoss’ win was the third in a row for German actresses at the Berlin festival. Last year, Sandra Hüller received the Silver Bear for her performance as a woman who believes herself possessed by the devil in Requiem, and the year before Julia Jentsch won the award for her star-making turn as German underground leader Sophie Scholl in Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.
A special Silver Bear was given to the cast of Robert De Niro’s Cold War drama The Good Shepherd, which was coolly received in the United States. The film stars Matt Damon as a CIA spy; also in the cast are Angelina Jolie, William Hurt, Alec Baldwin, Timothy Hutton, Martina Gedeck, Tammy Blanchard, and De Niro himself. Upon accepting the award, Martina Gedeck (one of the stars of the popular The Lives of Others) dedicated the trophy to director De Niro.
The Alfred Bauer award, named after the festival’s founder and given to “innovative” films, went to Park Chan-Wook’s Korean romantic comedy I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Ok.
“I would like to share this award with my wife,” Park declared. “She is very unhappy with my career as a director. I am not home for weeks, busy all the time and even when I am home my head is full of other thoughts. I hope she will now forgive me. When I get home, I hope she will tell our friends, ‘My husband is a director but that’s OK.'”
Approximately 400 films were screened and more than 200,000 tickets were sold during the ten-day Berlin festival. Twenty-two of those films were competing for the Golden Bear.
Berlin Film Festival Awards
Feb. 18 update: 2007 Berlin Film Festival ran Feb. 8–18.
Golden Bear for the Best Film: Tu ya de hun shi / Tuya’s Marriage by Wang Quan’an
Silver Bear – The Jury Grand Prix: El Otro / The Other by Ariel Rotter
Silver Bear – Best Director: Joseph Cedar for Beaufort
Silver Bear – Best Actor: Julio Chávez in El Otro / The Other by Ariel Rotter
Silver Bear – Best Actress: Nina Hoss in Yella by Christian Petzold
Silver Bear – Outstanding Artistic Contribution: To the ensemble cast of The Good Shepherd by Robert De Niro
Silver Bear – Best Film Music: David Mackenzie for Hallam Foe
Alfred Bauer Prize: (for innovative work) Sai bo gu ji man gwen chan a / I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok by Park Chan-wook
Honorary Golden Bear: Arthur Penn
Berlinale Camera: Gianni Miná, Màrta Mészáros, Ron Holloway and Dorothea Moritz
Best First Feature Award: Vanaja by Rajnesh Domalpalli
International Short Film Competition
Golden Bear: Raak by Hanro Smitsman (The Netherlands)
Silver Bear (ex aequo): Decroche by Manuel Schapira (France) and Mei by Arvin Chen (USA-Taiwan, China)
Prix UIP: Rotten Apple by Ralitza Petrova (UK)
The DAAD Short Film Award: Annem Sinema Ögreniyor by Nesimi Yetik (Turkey)
Generation Kplus Children’s Jury Awards
Crystal Bear for Best Feature Film: Dek Hor / Dorm by Songyos Sugmakanan
Special Mention: Mukhsin by Yasmin Ahmad
The Crystal Bear for Best Short Film: Menged by Daniel Taye Workou
Special Mention: Land gewinnen / Gaining Ground by Marc Brummund
Generation 14plus Youth Jury Awards
The Crystal Bear for the Best Feature Film: Adama Meshuga’at / Sweet Mud by Dror Shaul
Special Mention: The Fall by Tarsem Singh
International Jury of Generation Kplus
Grand Prix of the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk for Best Feature Film: Mukhsin by Yasmin Ahmad
Special Mention: Dek Hor / Dorm by Songyos Sugmakanan
Grand Prix of the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk for Best Short Film: Land gewinnen / Gaining Ground by Marc Brummund
Special Mention: Drengen i kufferten / Having a Brother by Esben Toft Jacobsen
Prizes of the Ecumenical Jury
Competition: Tu ya de hun shi / Tuya’s Marriage by Wang Quan’an
Panorama: Luo Ye Gui Gen / Getting Home by Zhang Yang
Forum: Chrigu by Jan Gassmann and Christian Ziörjen
Prizes of the FIPRESCI (International Film Critics) Juries
Competition: Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále / I Served the King of England by Jirí Menzel
Panorama: Takva / Takva – A Man’s Fear of God by Özer Kiziltan
Forum: Jagdhunde / Hounds by Ann-Kristin Reyels
Prize of the Guild of German Art House Cinemas: Hallam Foe
by David Mackenzie
C.I.C.A.E. (International Confederation of Art House Cinemas) Awards
Forum: Heimatklänge / Echoes of Home by Stefan Schwietert
Label Europa Cinemas Award: El Camino de los Ingleses / Summer Rain by Antonio Banderas
Manfred Salzgeber Prize: (to a film “that broadens the boundaries of cinema today”) The Tracey Fragments by Bruce McDonald
Special Mention: Boldog új élet / Happy New Life by Árpád Bogdán
Teddy Awards (for films with gay content)
Best Feature Film: Ci-Qing / Spider Lillies by Zero Chou
Special Mention for cinematography: La León by Santiago Otheguy
Best Documentary Film: A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory by Esther B. Robinson
Spcial Teddy: Helmut Berger, for his body of work
Teddy Audience Award: Notes on a Scandal by Richard Eyre
Dialogue en perspective Award: (for films screened in the German Cinema Perspective sidebar) Prinzessinnenbad / Pool of Princesses by Bettina Blümner
Special Mention: Hotel Very Welcome by Sonja Heiss
Caligari Film Prize:(for a film screened in the Forum) Kurz davor ist es passiert / It Happened Just Before by Anja Salomonowitz
Special Mention: Wolfsbergen by Nanouk Leopold
NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Prize (ex aequo): Tuli by Auraeus Solito and Ichijiku no kao / Faces of a Fig Tree by Momoi Kaori
Peace Film Prize: Goodbye Bafana by Bille August
Amnesty International Film Prize: När Mörkret Faller / When Darkness Falls by Anders Nilsson
Femina Film Prize: (for “outstanding artistic contribution of a female technician”) Editor Bettina Böhler for Yella by Christian Petzold
Readers Juries and Audience Awards
Panorama Audience Award: Blindsight by Lucy Walker
The Berliner Morgenpost Readers’ Jury Award: (for a film in the Competition section) Irina Palm by Sam Garbarski
The Siegessäule Readers’ Jury Award: (for a film with gay content) The Bubble by Eytan Fox
The Tagesspiegel Readers’ Jury: (for a film in the Forum) Heimatklänge by Stefan Schwietert
Prizes of the Berlinale Talent Campus
Volkswagen Score Competition Award: (for sound designers and composers) Ilja Coric
Berlin Today Award: (for a short film about Berlin) Kasia Klimkiewicz (Poland) and Andrew Friedman (USA) for Wasserschlacht – The Great Border Battle
International Competition Jury: American director-screenwriter Paul Schrader (president), Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass, German actor Mario Adorf, American actor Willem Dafoe, Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, Hong Kong producer Nansun Shi, and Danish film editor Molly Malene.
Best First Feature Jury: Judy Counihan, Niki Karimi, and Gerhard Meixner
International Short Film Jury: Peace Anyiam-Fiberesima (Nigeria), Riina Sildos (Estonia), Ning Ying (China)
Generation Children’s Jury: Can Deniz Binici, Sandra Botzet, Liliann Fischer, Maïmouna Guirassy, Maxim Michaelis, Anita Oberlin, Mara Ohlhoff, Sammy Steward, Paul Trabhardt, Ngoc Diep Lila Tran, and Moritz Wagner
Generation Youth Jury: Lena-Lotte Agger, Silvia Dudek, Elif Erönder, Till Gerber, Adam Heise, Jean-Marc Philippe Montag and Ruby Reimann
International Jury of the Generation Kplus Competition: Andreas Steinhöfel, Sitora Alieva, Justin Johnson, Leontine Petit, and Reza Bagher
Ecumenical Jury: Charles Martig (jury president). Angelika Obert, Théo Peporte, Anita Uzulniece, Marjorie Suchocki, Katharina Zeckau
FIPRESCI Juries: Phillip Bergson, Heike Hurst, Jerzy Plazewski (Competition); José Carlos Avellar, Jürgen Kiontke, Dinko Tucakovic (Panorama); Salome Kikaleishvili, Dana Linssen, Rüdiger Suchsland (Forum)
Guild of German Art House Cinemas Jury: Adrian Kutter, Werner Renneke, Burkhard Hofmann
C.I.C.A.E. Jury: Stephanie Flauger, Nikos Grigoriadis, Marianne Piquet in the Panorama; Katri Laiho, Ursula Philipp Schürmann, Davide Zanza in the Forum
Label Europa Cinemas Jury: Georgette Ranucci, Michal Drobny, Christian Schmalz, Staš Ravter
Manfred Salzgeber Prize Jury: Udi Aloni, Kanako Hayashi, and Jost Hering
Teddy Jury: Charlie Boudreau (jury president), Ailton Franco Jr., Frédéric Arends, Kam Wai Kui, Michaela Pnacekova, Raymond Phathanavirangoon, Jason Plourde, Fanney Tsimong
Dialogue en perspective Jury: Mathilde Bonnefoy (president), Anja Göbel, Michael Hack, Anton Ludwig, Stéphane Demoustier, Aurore Giraudon, Thomas Hochmann, Elisabeth Scherrer
Caligari Film Jury: Rolf-Rüdiger Hamacher, Peter Link, Beate Preisler
NETPAC Jury: Budi Irawanto (president), Intishal al Timimi and Yang Yong-hi
Peace Film Prize Jury: Harriet Eder, Christoph Heubner, Wilma Pradetto, Monica Chana Puginier, Simone Schmollack, Michael Schorr, Marianne Wündrich-Brosien
Amnesty International Film Prize Jury: Christiane Paul, Ayfer Ergün, and Dietmar Kammerer
Femina Jury: Sophie Maintigneux, Katharina Sykora, and Monika Treut
Volkswagen Score Competition Jury: Martin Steyer, Martin Todsharow and Jan Kaczmarek
Berlin Film Festival website.
Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie The Good Shepherd image: Universal Pictures.
August Diehl The Counterfeiters image: Universum Film.
Marianne Faithfull Irina Palm image: Strand Releasing.
“Berlin Film Festival: Nazi & Cold War Flops + Sex Worker Marianne Faithfull & Jacques Rivette Returns” last updated in September 2018.