Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bosnian rape drama 'Grbavica' wins Berlin's Golden Bear top prize

Bosnian rape drama 'Grbavica' wins Berlin's Golden Bear top prize
Feb 18 4:31 PM US/Eastern
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Bosnian drama "Grbavica," about the plight of the thousands of women raped during the Balkan wars, won the Golden Bear prize for best picture at the 56th Berlin Film Festival.

British actress Charlotte Rampling, the president of the festival's jury, presented the award to director Jasmila Zbanic at a gala ceremony in the German capital after a competition dominated by politically charged themes.

"I just want to use this opportunity to remind us all that the war in Bosnia was over some 13 years ago and the war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic still live in Europe freely," said Zbanic, 31, referring to the former Bosnian Serb leader and his army chief.

"They (have not) been captured for organizing the rape of 20,000 women in Bosnia, killing 100,000 people and expelling from their houses one million. Nobody is interested to capture them."

"Grbavica," which Zbanic described as a "small film from a small country with a small budget," tells the story of the fraught relationship between an assaulted woman and the rebellious daughter she raises alone in Sarajevo without knowing which of her rapists was the father.

The picture, named after a Sarajevo suburb, was Zbanic's first feature after several documentaries.

The festival's Silver Bear for directing went to British filmmakers Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross for "The Road to Guantanamo," which tells the true story of three British Muslims who were held at the US prison camp in Cuba for more than two years before being released without charge.

"There's really only three people that should get any prize because of this film and that's the three people whose story it was," Winterbottom said, before calling Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Ruhel Ahmed to the stage for a lengthy round of applause.

The Jury Grand Prix award, a runner-up prize, went to the Danish film "A Soap" about the love affair between a woman and a transsexual, and the Iranian soccer comedy "Offside."

Pernille Fischer Christensen, the director of "A Soap," also accepted a new prize for best feature film debut.

"It has taken me a very long time to come to produce my first feature," she said. "Thank you very much everybody for embracing me with your love for cinema."

Two German stars picked up the Silver Bears for acting, in a strong year for homegrown film at the international festival.

Sandra Hueller won the best actress nod for her harrowing portrayal in the true story of a epileptic girl who died in 1970s Germany after an exorcism.

"What you see in the film looks awful but I can say the process of filming the movie was a pleasure," Hueller said.

Moritz Bleibtreu, star of the film "The Elementary Particles," won the best actor prize for his performance as a sex-addict teacher in the German adaptation of the international bestseller by French literary bad boy Michel Houellebecq.

"I'd like to thank Oskar Roehler for making such a courageous film," said Bleibtreu, best known internationally for his appearance in "Run Lola Run," of the racy feature.

The Berlinale also presented two honorary Golden Bear awards during its 11-day run, to British actor Ian McKellen (the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy) and Polish director Andrzej Wayda ("Ashes and Diamonds"), for their life's work.

The festival, which ranks with Cannes and Venice among the top European film festivals, featured a total of 360 pictures from 56 countries and hosted some 18,000 guests.

It will wrap up Sunday with screenings of a restored copy of Sam Peckinpah's 1972 Western "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" and popular films from the competition.

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