Audiences were enchanted by Mike Leigh's story of a young schoolteacher navigating modern life (with memorable flamenco classes and driving instruction). Sally Hawkins was the source of the buzz, stepping up from minor roles in previous Leigh films to win the Silver Bear for best actress (review, p21).
Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger
Berlin's Generation section for children and teens boasted a slew of must-see films. They included The Black Balloon, Somers Town and this quirky Australian comedy directed by Cathy Randall and starring Toni Collette and Keisha Castle-Hughes. Screen's reviewer Peter Brunette said: "This charming, highly accomplished first feature will gladden the hearts of parents everywhere looking for a film to watch with their pre-teens, especially girls."
The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela
Icelandic director Olaf de Fleur made his feature debut in the Panorama with this tale of a transsexual from the Philippines looking for love with Western men online. Johannesson's unusual approach to the subject matter (which borrows from documentary techniques) won him the best feature Teddy prize for gay-themed titles.
I've Loved You So Long...
In a mixed year for the Competition, Philippe Claudel's drama emerged as one of the stand-outs. Kristen Scott Thomas' performance was lauded as a career best, and the film picked up the Berliner Morgenpost readers' prize and the Ecumenical jury prize for Competition titles (review, p22).
The winner of the Panorama Audience Award was Eran Riklis' Israel-Germany-France co-production about a middle-aged widow in a tiny Palestinian village whose garden is threatened when the Israeli defence minister decides her lemon grove is a security threat. The project was well-received at public screenings and also was a hot seller for Films Distribution.
Be Like Others
Tanaz Eshaghian's thoughtful documentary looks at what could be a salacious subject - Iran's encouragement of sex-change operations to deter homosexuality. But Screen critic Peter Brunette found it "thoughtful, touching and, at times, even wrenching study of sexual and religious hypocrisy". Be Like Others took the readers' prize of Siegessaule, a mention from the Amnesty International jury and the Teddy jury prize.
David Assmann and Ayat Najafi's documentary Football Under Cover won a Teddy and the Volkswagen Audience Award; Anna Melikian's The Mermaid (Rusalka) in Panorama took the Fipresci Panorama prize; Natalie Assouline's Brides Of Allah in Forum won the Fipresci prize; Revanche by Gotz Spielmann in Panorama won the Europa Cinemas Label and the Cicae prize. Christian Karim Chrobog's War Child, a US documentary about a Sudan-born hip-hop artist, did not take prizes but Screen called it "a moving and compelling achievement".