By Ogova Ondego
Published February 20, 2007
Although Africa may not have featured prominently at the just concluded 57th Berlin International Film Festival (February 8-18, 2007), efforts to reach out to the mother continent and her cousin, Asia, were in top gear. OGOVA ONDEGO reports from the German cultural and political capital.
The audiovisual media capacity-building partners of the Berlin International Film Festival—Berlinale Talent Campus, DW-Akademie, World Cinema Fund, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg GmbH—have left little doubt that they are interested in Africa and Asia.
Well known friends of Africa and Asia, Dorothee Wenner of the Berlinale Talent Campus and Padhraic O’Dorchataigh of DW-Akademie, organised a meeting of African and Asian participants in their institutions at which O’Dorchataigh appealed for collaboration between African and Asian countries.
Explaining the difference between Anglo-American and European models of filmmaking business and the shifting control of television production from broadcasters to independent producers, O’Dorchataigh explained that DW-Akademie seeks to promote the growth of independent productions around the world through film and television festivals.
Wenner, who has been director of the Talent Campus since August 2006, says her goal is ‘to support structurally disadvantaged regions on the international film scene by actively looking for and inviting talents from those areas.’
It was therefore with little surprise when Asian films were shown in Berlin and took top awards, including the prestigious Berlinale Golden Bear for the Best Film in competition that went to China’s Tu ya de hun shi (Tuya’s Marriage) by Wang Quan’an.
The Alfred Bauer Prize 2007 went to Sai bo gu ji man gwen chan a (I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok) by Park Chan-wook of South Korea.
The Best First Feature Award, endowed by the Gesellschaft zur Wahrnehmung von Film und Fernsehrechten (GWFF), a society for safeguarding film and television rights, went to India’s Vanaja, a film directed by Rajnesh Domalpalli.
While Dek Hor (Dorm) by Songyos Sugmakanan of Thailand won the Crystal Bear for Best Feature Film in the Generation Kplus, The Grand Prix of the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk for Best Feature Film presented by the International Jury went to Mukhsin by Yasmin Ahmad of Malaysia.
The Crystal Bear for the Best Short Film went to Menged, an Ethiopian/German co-production directed by Daniel Taye Workou. So, are Asian and African films better than their American and European counterparts or were they merely beneficiaries of affirmative action?
The World Cinema Fund of the Berlinale also announced that it will now include South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore in its funding programme.
Although WCF has been criticised as perpetuating neo-colonialism for insisting that a German producer must be involved for one to receive funding, fund manager Sonja Heinen and advisor Vincenzo Bugno were in fulsome praise of it. And they had a friend in Malian Salif Traore who said his film—Faro-La Reine Des Eaux (Faro: Goddess of the Waters)—would not have been made without the support of the WCF. His film was shown in the Berlinale sidebar, International Forum of New Cinema.
So far Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, and Chile) has received the bulk of the funding while the only black African project to have been completed is Traore’s. Algerian Tariq Tegula’s Roma Wa La N’Touma (Rome rather than You) and Egyptian Yousry Nasrallah’s L’Aquarium (Aquarium) have also received production funding.
Bamako by Mauritanian Abderrahmane Sissako and Moolade by veteran Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene have received distribution support from the WCF that is bankrolled by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, Goethe-Institut, Minister of Culture, and the Fedral Foreign Office.
Heinen explained that the fund receives more applications for funding support from Latin America—particularly Argentina—than from any other region.
But my presence in Berlin had little to do with journalism; I was there as a producer participating in the 5th Berlinale Talent Campus. While here, I had the rare opportunity to use real film. Yes, celluloid, thanks to Kodak’s Bart Durkin and Matthias Schulze who not only took us through the ‘Stop By, Shoot Film: Demystifying Celluloid’ hands-on workshop but also explained what it takes to use film as opposed to digital technology. Each of us then was asked to shoot a scene of our own choice using the newly acquired skills. Being the only black face in my group, I found myself being used as a guinea pig by many of my colleagues who wanted to know how to make a film with black people together with white ones. Thus I found myself a star for the three hours it took to make our shots.
Other highlights for me in the fully-packed five days of the Berlinale Talent Campus were seminars and debates on project pitching with Judy Counihan and Eileen Quinn, On Border Crossing with Mexican actor-cum producer and Berlinale international jury member Gael Garcia Bernal, Filming in the Eye of the Storm by Rakesh Sharma, Bianca Jagger, Monique Phoba, Eyas Salman, and Thomas Gebauer that brought to the fore contentious issues like non-governmental organisations funding films for reasons other than creativity, and how to successfully collaborate with NGOs without compromising professionalism.
Above all else, I also got the rare chance to participate in the Berlin Angels Day through which 50 particiapants–out of 200 applicants from 81 countries–were rewarded with the opportunity to spend a day with a leading audiovisual media practitioner in Berlin-Brandenburg to gain insight into filmmaking. The experience was much like being made an apprentice or disciple in order to someday become as great as one’s mentor!
But we got a great surprise when Wim Wenders, the patron of Berlin Angels Day—that was being held for the third time—referred to the apprentices as the Berlin Angels and crowned it all by giving them white T-shirts with a winged angel at the front. Thus clad, we were sent out to practice flying over the grey Berlin skies. And what an adventure it was!
I was attached to Ziegler Film, a company that has produced more than 400 films, telefeatures, documentaries and TV series since its inception by Regina Ziegler in 1973.
Saying that its aim is “to awaken the interes and atention of the audience with its productions, while addressing key audience groups as well as the broad public amid acute competition and demanding production procedures”, Ziegler Film stresses that it “aims to remain independent in the German as well as the international film television market, while at the same time growing with the times and stimulating audiences with a profile of creativity and quality.”
Although we saw many of the company’s productions, what impressed me most was the futuristic docu-fiction film, 2030: Aufstand der Alten (2030: Uprising of the Elderly) that deals with anticipated future problems related to aging in Germany due to political inaction. One of the largest independent production houses in Germany, the award-winning Ziegler Film—Golden Rose,German Film Prize, Golden Shell, Grimme Prize, and Oscar and Golden Globe nominations—has offices in Berlin, Cologne and Munich.
Tanja Ziegler, the Berlin Angel to six of us, may not have been present due to too many film commitments during Berlinale (as we were told), but her spirit and able professionals led by producer Britta Hansen, ensured everything proceeded well.
Before going over to Ziegler Film accompanied by our guide, Birgit Reuter of the Berlin-Brandenburg Medienboard, the ball had been set rolling by Medienboard’s MD, Kirsten Niehuus and several of her colleagues.
And so the 57th Berlinale and 5th Berlinale talent Campus tearfully came to an end. The latter was the only place I had seen Palestinians, Israelis, Iraqis, Iranians, and Americans interacting as if they were members of one large, happy family. An Israeli even told me that what the international media report about Israel and the Middle East is usually not true!
But like in any other big festival, I was left with several unanswered questions. For instance, how did American film director and writer Paul Schrader whose USA/UK coproduction feature, The Walker, was in competition, come to head the international jury in direct contravention of the Berlinale’s own regulation that “Members of the jury are selected on the proviso that they are in no way involved in the production or distribution of any film in the Competition section”?
Another mystery was how the copyright to the Berlin Today Award films, written and directed by Berlinale Talent Campus with funding from the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and produced by Boxfish Films, is held by Boxfish Films. Does this mean the writers and directors are merely hired by Boxfish?
Then the Talent Campus appears to be a hurried affair with so many programmes lumped together to the extent there is little interaction among participants who breathlessly run from one activity to another. Most of them end up not watching a single film outside the campus programme.
Well? Am sure you want to see the complete list of awards at 57th Berlinale, dont you?
Berlinale Comeptition Awards
A 7-member International Jury considers and awards the festival’s main prizes only to films in the Competition section. Members of the International Jury of the Berlinale 2007 consisted of Paul Schrader, Hiam Abbas, Mario Adorf, Willem Dafoe, Gael García Bernal, Nansun Shi and Malene Stensgaard.
Golden Bear for the Best Film: Tu ya de hun shi (Tuya’s Marriage) by Wang Quan’an
The Jury Grand Prix: El otro (The Other) by Ariel Rotter
Best Director: Joseph Cedar for Beaufort
Best Actress: Nina Hoss in Yella by Christian Petzold
Best Actor: Julio Chavez in El otro by Ariel Rotter
Outstanding Artistic Contribution: To the ensemble cast of The Good Shepherd by Robert De Niro
Best Film Music: David Mackenzie for the use of music in his film Hallam Foe
Alfred Bauer Prize: Sai bo gu ji man gwen chan a (I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok) by Park Chan-wook
Generation 14-Plus Childrens’ Jury 2007 award
Members of the Children’s Jury were Can Deniz Binici, Sandra Botzet, Liliann Fischer, Maïmouna Guirassy, Maxim Michaelis, Anita Oberlin, Mara Ohlhoff, Sammy Steward, Paul Trabhardt, Ngoc Diep Lila Tran and Moritz Wagner
The Crystal Bear for Best Feature Film: Dek Hor (Dorm) by Songyos Sugmakanan
Prizes of the Generation 14plus Youth Jury 2007
Jury members were Lena-Lotte Agger, Silvia Dudek, Elif Erönder, Till Gerber, Adam Heise, Jean-Marc Philippe Montag and Ruby Reimann.
The Crystal Bear for the Best Feature Film: Adama Meshuga’at by Dror Shaul
Prizes of the International Jury of Generation 14 plus
The Jury was made up of Andreas Steinhöfel, Sitora Alieva, Justin Johnson, Leontine Petit, and Reza Bagher.
The Grand Prix of the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk for Best Feature Film: Mukhsin by Yasmin Ahmad
The Special Prize of the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk for Best Short Film: Land gewinnen (Gaining Ground) by Marc Brummund
Best First Feature Award
(Awarded by a three-member international jury; comprised Judy Counihan, Niki Karimi and Gerhard Meixner in 2007): Vanaja by Rajnesh Domalpalli
Prizes of the International Short Film Jury
The members of the international short film jury were Peace Anyiam-Fiberesima (Nigeria), Riina Sildos (Estonia), and Ning Ying (China)
The Golden Bear: Raak by Hanro Smitsman (the Netherlands)
The Silver Bear is awarded ex aequo: Decroche by Manuel Schapira (France); and Mei by Arvin Chen (USA-Taiwan, China)
The Prix UIP Award: Rotten Apple by Ralitza Petrova (UK)
The DAAD Short Film Award: Annem Sinema Ögreniyor by Nesimi Yetik (Turkey)
Numerous other prizes—more than those given out by the official Berlinale juries—were presented by the Independent Juries, i.e. those not selected by the Berlinale administration.
Prizes of the Ecumenical Jury
Competition: Tu ya de hun shi by Wang Quan’an
Panorama: Luo Ye Gui Gen (Getting Home) by Zhang Yang
Forum: Chrigu by Jan Gassmann and Christian Ziörjen
Prizes of the FIPRESCI Juries
Competition: Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále (I Served The King Of England) by Jirí Menzel
Panorama: Takva (Takva – A Man’s Fear Of God) by Özer Kiziltan
Forum: Jagdhunde (Hounds) by Ann-Kristin Reyels
Prize of the Guild of German Art House Cinemas:
Hallam Foe by David Mackenzie
Confédération Internationale des Cinémas d’Art et d’Essai (C.I.C.A.E.) Prizes
Panorama: The Bubble by Eytan Fox
Forum: Heimatklänge (Echoes of Home) by Stefan Schwietert
“Label Europa Cinemas”
El Camino de los Ingleses (Summer Rain) by Antonio Banderas
Manfred Salzgeber Prize
The Tracey Fragments by Bruce McDonald
The TEDDY for the Best Feature Film: Ci-Qing (Spider Lillies) by Zero Chou
The TEDDY for the Best Documentary Film: A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams And The Warhol Factory by Esther B. Robinson
The Teddy Ballot Volkswagen Audience Award: Notes on a scandal by Richard Eyre
Dialogue en perspective
Prinzessinnenbad (Pool of Princesses) by Bettina Blümner
Caligari Film Prize
Kurz davor ist es passiert (It happened just before) by Anja Salomonowitz
Tuli by Auraeus Solito and Ichijiku no kao (Faces of a Fig Tree) by Momoi Kaori
Peace Film Prize
Goodbye Bafana by Bille August
Amnesty International Film Prize
När Mörkret Faller (When Darkness Falls) by Anders Nilsson
Femina Film Prize
Bettina Böhler for editing in Yella by Christian Petzold
Readers Juries and Audience Awards
Panorama Audience Award: Blindsight by Lucy Walker
The “Berliner Morgenpost” Readers: Irina Palm von Sam Garbarski
The “Siegessäule” Readers: The Bubble by Eytan Fox
The “Tagesspiegel” Readers: Heimatklänge by Stefan Schwietert
Prizes of the 5th Berlinale Talent Campus
Volkswagen Score Competition: Ilja Coric
Berlin Today Award: Kasia Klimkiewicz (Poland) and Andrew Friedman (USA) for the film, Wasserschlacht: The Great Border Battle.