Experimental film wins at Berlin Film Festival

Heather Graham had many sexist things said to her and she used them as fodder for her new film, Half Magic, which she writes for, directs and also stars in. Gong Li (right) stars as a stage actress gathering secret information for the Allied Powers i
Adina PintiliePHOTO: EPA-EFE

BERLIN • In a surprise, Touch Me Not by Romanian director Adina Pintilie won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin Film Festival last Saturday.

The formally experimental feature was one of the festival's more divisive entries, partly because of the frankness with some of its sex scenes, and it was not considered a front-runner.

It tells the story of three people - including a 50something woman who recoils at being touched and a man crippled by spinal muscular atrophy - struggling with issues of intimacy. It also won the award for Best First Feature.

The Silver Bear, or the runner-up prize, went to Mug, by Malgorzata Szumowska of Poland. The film, a fable set in rural Poland, focuses on a young man who has a face transplant after an accident on the construction site of the world's largest Jesus statue.

In a nod to the discussions about gender equality that have dominated much of the festival, Szumowska noted in her acceptance speech: "I am so happy I am a female director."

Wes Anderson won the Silver Bear for Best Director for Isle Of Dogs, the festival's most star-studded competition entry. The animated movie is about a Japanese city that deports its dogs to a garbage dump island during an outbreak of canine flu.

Bill Murray, who was the voice of one of the dogs, collected the award at the gala on Anderson's behalf.

"I never thought that I would go to work as a dog and come home with a bear," he joked as he held the trophy.

Best Actor went to Anthony Bajon for his live wire performance in The Prayer as a recovering drug addict at a Catholic sanctuary in southern France.

Ana Brun took home the Best Actress prize for her role as a middle-aged woman forced to reshape her life after her long-term girlfriend is imprisoned for fraud in The Heiresses.

The understated film, set in Paraguay, also took home the Alfred Bauer Prize for a feature "that opens new perspectives".

Best Screenplay went to Manuel Alcala and Alonso Ruizpalacios for Museum, a Mexican heist film starring Gael Garcia Bernal.

This was a particularly strong year for German films at the festival, with several home-grown entries, including Christian Petzold's Transit, considered favourites for the major awards. Ultimately, however, they went home empty-handed.

The awards were decided by a six-person jury headed by German director Tom Tykwer.

The Berlin Film Festival is one of the oldest and most prestigious film festivals in the world.

While there was no overarching theme this year, there were many films about migration and portraits of artists.

NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2018, with the headline 'Experimental film wins at Berlin Film Festival'. Print Edition | Subscribe