Mark Dornford-May's U-Carmen eKhayelitsha has become the first African film in the history of the Berlinale to be awarded the top honours of the Golden Bear by the International Jury led by German director Roland Emmerich.
The jury's choice of Dornford-May's version of Carmen's Bizet set in a South African township took film critics completely by surprise as other competition entries such as Raoul Peck's harrowing story of Rwandan genocide Sometimes In April, Hany Abu-Assad's tale of the last hours of two suicide bombers Paradise Now, and Robert Guedigian's The Last Mitterand had been considered as potential Golden Bear winners.
Paradise Now, however, did pick up three prizes: the Blue Angel Award for best European film; the newly-created Amnesty International Film Prize; and the Berliner Morgenpost Readers' Prize.
Nevertheless, the top honour fitted well with festival director Dieter Kosslick's focus this year on Africa with such films as the festival opener Regis Wargnier's Man To Man, Terry George's "out of competition" film Hotel Rwanda or Peck's Sometimes In April.
Similarly, the choice of Germany's Marc Rothemund to receive the Silver Bear for Best Director for Sophie Scholl - The Final Days mystified some journalists at the awards press conference, although there was unanimous agreement on the Silver Bear for Best Actress for the film's lead actress Julia Jentsch .
Since Munich's Kammerspiele theatre would not release Jentsch from her theatre performance on Saturday evening, the Berlinale's festival director Dieter Kosslick flew her up to Berlin on Saturday morning to present the actress as a "surprise guest" at the press conference so that she could savour winning the award in front of the assembled world press.
"A star is born" was Kosslick's verdict on Jentsch's performance as the resistance figure against the Nazis, and German distributor X Verleih was looking to capitalise on the publicity created by these two Bears for its opening of the film on Feb 24 with 200 prints (24 more than Good Bye Lenin!).
As far as awards are concerned, Berlin has always been good to Asian cinema and 2005 was no exception, with the region picking up three of the International Jury's nine prizes: Gu Changwei received the Jury Grand Prix - Silver Bear for Peacock, while Tsai Ming Liang saw his screenplay distinguished with a Silver Bear "for an outstanding artistic contribution" and the film receive the Alfred Bauer Prize for "taking the art of film in a new direction." Meanwhile, the USA only picked up the Silver Bear for Best Actor for Lou Taylor Pucci's role in Mike Mills' Thumbsucker.
Speaking at the awards ceremony on Saturday evening in the Berlinale Palast which was followed by an "out of competition" screening of Bill Condon's Kinsey, Jury President Roland Emmerich observed that it had been "very, very easy" to make the decisions on the prize-winners and that these decisions "were made very swiftly."
According to the festival, this year's edition of the Berlinale recorded the best attendances ever with more than 400,000 people - general public and accredited guests - going to see 343 films in more than 1,100 screenings.
A record 180,000 tickets were sold to the general public and the festival organisation was expecting another onslaught on the cinemas on Sunday for the Berlinale Kinotag when a selection of films from across the programme were screened at all of the Berlinale venues.
The number of accredited guests increased by 1,000 from 2004 to 17,000 hailing from 120 countries thanks to the growing interest in the European Film Market which will be moving to its new venue of the Martin Gropius Bau next year.
Luis Mandoki's Innocent Voices won the Crystal Bear for Best Feature Film in the 14 plus section of the Kinderfilmfest. The award was given by a five-person jury aged between 15 and 17.
BERLINALE 2005 AWARDS
The members of the International Jury: Roland Emmerich (Jury President, Germany), Ingeborga Dapkunaite (Lithuania), Bai Ling (China), Franka Potente (Germany), Wouter Barendrecht (Netherlands), Nino Cerruti (Italy), Andrei Kurkov (Ukraine), awarded the following prizes for feature films screened in competition :
The Golden Bear to
by Mark Dornford-May
The Jury Grand Prix - Silver Bear to
KONG QUE (Peacock)
by Gu Changwei
The Silver Bear for Best Director to
SOPHIE SCHOLL - DIE LETZTEN TAGE (Sophie Scholl - The Final Days)
The Silver Bear for Best Actress to
for SOPHIE SCHOLL - DIE LETZTEN TAGE (Sophie Scholl - The Final Days)
The Silver Bear for Best Actor to
Lou Taylor Pucci
The Silver Bear for an outstanding artistic contribution to
Tsai Ming Liang
for the script of TIAN BIAN YI DUO YUN (The Wayward Cloud)
The Silver Bear for Best Film Music to
for the music in the film DE BATTRE MON COEUR S'EST ARRETE (The Beat That My Heart Skipped)
Prizes Awarded by The International Short Film Jury
The members of the International Short Film Jury, Gabriela Tagliavini (Argentina), Marten Rabarts (New Zealand), Susan Korda (USA), awarded the following prizes for short films screened in the competition:
The Golden Bear for Best Short Film
by Peter Mackie Burns
The Jury Prize - Silver Bear to the Short Films
by Jay Duplass
by Izabela Plucinska
DON KHISHOT BE'YERUSHALAIM (Don Quixote in Jerusalem)
by Dani Rosenberg
Panorama Short Film Award
by Warwick Thornton
The Special Jury prize
by Taika Waititi
Rhee Young-ran for her role in the film SARA JEANNE
BIKINI by Lasse Persson
Prix UIP Berlin
An initiative of the UIP and European Film Academy in cooperation with the Berlin International Film Festival. The prize includes 2,000 Euro and automatic nomination to the 2005 European Film Awards. The winner is selected from the short films participating in the Competition and Panorama sections.
The International Short Film Jury awards the Prix UIP Berlin to
by Claudia Lorenz
Prizes of the Kinderfilmfest
The Crystal Bear for Best Feature Film
BLUEBIRD by Mijke de Jong
ITALIANETZ (The Italian) by Andrei Kravchuk
IKKE NAKEN (The Colour Of Milk) by Torun Lian
The Crystal Bear for Best Short Film
THE DJARN DJARNS
by Wayne Blair
DOES GOD PLAY FOOTBALL'
by Michael Walker
by Erik van Schaaik
The Federation Internationale de la Presse Cinematographique, the International Film Critics Association, awards its prizes to one film from the sections Competition and Panorama as well as one from the Forum.
The nine members of this year's FIPRESCI Jury, Andrei Plakhov (Jury President, Russia), Dubravka Lakic (Serbia and Montenegro), Leonardo Garcia Tsao (Mexico), Ruth Pombo (Spain), Ninos Feneck Mikelides (Greece), Angelika Kettelhack (Germany), Pamela Bienzobas (Chile), Cristina Piccino (Italy), Helmut Merker (Germany), awarded the following films:
The prize for a film from the Competition goes to
TIAN BIAN YI DUO YUN (The Wayward Cloud)
by Tsai Ming Liang
The prize for a film from the Panorama goes to
by Monika Borgmann, Lokman Slim, Hermann Theißen
The prize for a film from the Forum goes to
NIU PI (Oxhide)
by Liu Jiayin
For a full list of the Berlinale prizes, go to: http://www.berlinale.de/