The 60th Berlin International Film Festival came to a close on Sunday a day after awarding the coveted Golden Bear to the Turkish family drama, "Honey." The jury made the controversial choice to give the Silver Bear to "The Ghost Writer" director to Roman Polanski, who is under house arrest in Switzerland. The acting gongs went to Shinoubu Terajima, the Japanese star of the harrowing anti-war film "Caterpillar" and to Girgori Dobrygin and Sergei Puskepalis, Russian co-stars of the Arctic drama "How I Ended This Summer."
The Turkish surprise winner, directed by Semih Kaplangolglu, was one of 20 contenders for the Golden Bear in a somewhat lacklustre competition this year. It is the third in a trilogy, following "Milk" and "Egg," tracing the life of a young boy, Yusuf in rural Turkey. Nature plays an important role in the film, which has no music, and stars eight-year-old Bora Altas. On accepting his award, the 46-year-old director called attention to Turkey's threatened wilderness near the Black Sea coast where much of the film is set.
Polanski's Silver Bear was accepted by the producer of "The Ghost Writer" Alain Sarde at the gala ceremony on Saturday evening. "I am sure Roman will be very happy," he said. "However, when I was lamenting with him that he cannot be with us, he said to me 'even if I could, I wouldn't because the last time I went to a festival to get a prize I ended up in jail.'"
Polanski, who fled the US in 1977 after admitting to having sex with a 13-year-old girl, was arrested on a US warrant in Zurich last September while on his way to accept an award. He is currently under house arrest and fighting extradition.
The Berlin tabloid B.Z. am Sonntag called the jury's decision a scandal, amounting to a "general amnesty" for the director. "The fact that the Berlinale world stage is used for this second-rate spectacle leaves a nasty aftertaste and does lasting damage to the festival," it wrote. The industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter, wrote that the decision by the jury, led by German director Werner Herzog, to award Polanski the Silver Bear, "will likely be seen as a signal of solidarity with the director."
"The Ghost Writer" went down well with critics, calling it a return to form for the French-Polish director of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown." Based on Robert Harris' bestseller "The Ghost," the film features Pierce Brosnan as a former British prime minister, modelled on Tony Blair, suspected of having committed war crimes. The ghost writer he hires to help write his memoirs, played by Ewan McGregor, then stumbles upon a web of intrigue.
The jury's runner-up prize went to the Romanian film "If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle," a drama about a teenage delinquent, directed by Florin Serban. The festival's opening film "Apart Together," which tells the tale of a couple divided for decades across the Taiwan Strait, won the Silver Bear for best screenplay.
With wire reports