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Thursday 1 January 1970


By Bhaskar Deb

Berlin Film Festival 2006 (Berlinale 2006) is over, but postmortem still continues. Oh no ! They did it again. A bare year ago from the last Bear gala, the Berlinale presented its highest award to another scarcely seen, scarcely tipped movie.

Last year?s Golden Bear went to South Africa?s U 'CARMEN KHAYELITSHA', still unexhibited in most parts of the world. This year, it was female film director Jasmila Zabanic's 'GRBAVICA' from Bosnia, that won. A story of massacre, torture, rape and children born of violence. We are familiar with Bosnia?s story. And in the light of current headings such as the death of Milosevic and trials of war criminals of Bosnia, this prize seems all the more fitting.

Since it was slipped into a barely heralded slot early in the festival with many, many catcherups, including me, we had to see it with German subtitles in a crowded cinematheque. Sitting way down as I could get on my seat, gravely handicapped due to the large, unbudging head in front of me, I saw 'GRBAVICA' that way. That leads me to note : ?I gave you my time, but next time, I promise, I will give you my mind, senses and understanding."

Not even those who saw the film properly rated it as a Golden Bear contender. Most money was on the bookies' favourite 'THE ROAD TO UANTANAMO', a vivid, controversial slice of agitprop from Britain but this most political film, Guantanamo, only won a shared Best Director prize for Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross. However, this eye witness journalist had not expected that decision.

The rest of the money, or mine at least, was on the 'PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION', that late career Robert Altman classic that went prizeless.

The best of the late showing films were Claude Chabrol?s 'L?IVRESSE DU POUVOIR' and Jafar Panahi?s 'OFFSIDE'. Calcuttans are familiar with Chabrol and Jafar Panahi. Chabrol gives his favourite actress, Isabelle Huppert (like Satyajit Ray?s Madhobi Mukherjee) a gratefully multi-level role as a Paris magistrate investigating top-class businessmen, in a plot about kickbacks and corruption, in powder-blue trenchcoats, mauve glasses and red gloves. She tells her interview victims that smoking is forbidden in her presence. At home, her high-powered careerism has emasculated a marriage. At work, she repudiates the bonus offered by her boss who wants her to back off the case, by telling him : ?Keep it to buy yourself a pair of balls?. The story slicks but it is Huppert who one remembers and cherishes.

Jafar Panahi made 'THE CIRCLE and 'CRIMSON GOLD', two crack Iranian films, and 'OFFSIDE' is almost another. Almost because the Indian viewer already knows Jafar?s theme of women?s oppression, so powerful in 'THE CIRCLE', in cue for gentle comedy in 'OFFSIDE', which won the runner-up Grand Jury prize.

We could be watching a lightweight Loach film, as the story of six girls arrested for trying to get into a soccer international game, the film is invested with mild satire and dapper behavioral observation. The comedy lies in the fact that none of the film?s specimen males, the soldiers on sentry around the temporary holding pen in the stadium, can answer the simple question: ?Why are women in Iran not allowed to attend football matches??.

Germany?s home-grown films were stronger than usual but not strong enough to prevent overloading of a native product (five movies in competition). Matthias Glasner?s 'FREE WILL' had a few powerful stakes in the queue. Hans Christian Schmid?s 'REQUIEM' begins as a storming study of the ravages of epilepsy in a young girl but becomes an Emily Rose-style tale of satanic possession and exorcism. Even so, it won Sandra Huller the Best Actress prize, making a German double with Moritz Bleibtreu, named Best Actor in Oscar Roehler's robust but prosaic 'ELEMENTARY PARTICALS'.

The number of outside beta wining prizes put the critics in a spin, not to say a quandary. I was going to end by saying that festival director Dieter Kosslick, should spend this year riding round the world pillaging better movies for 2007. But when a jury showers the second best achievement with prizes, apart from this award, the Indian film hits the audiencs. Buddhadeb Dasgupta's debut film KAALPURUSH was right to challenge the jurors before selection. But why not screen 'KAALPURUSH' for the red carpet audience? Three auditoriums URANIA, INTERNATIONAL & CINE MAX audiences enjoyed it.

The answer next year ? That way, we will stop the film world from being led in eccentric directions three years in a row and make sure the right Bears hug the right movies.

Awaiting the festival Director's reply.

Bhaskar Deb,



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