/Battle for top awards

Battle for top awards

Berlin (dpa) – The Berlin Film Festival is drawing to a close with only a handful of contenders for its prestigious prizes and the race wide open for the Berlinale’s top award – the Golden Bear for best picture.

In addition to US director Wes Anderson’s animation film “Isle of Dogs,” the frontrunners for awards include Erik Poppe’s “U-July 22,” a harrowing reconstruction of a Norwegian right-wing extremist’s real life murder spree, and Russia’s Aleksei German’s movie “Dovlatov” about Soviet intellectual repression in the 1970’s.

Paraguay’s Marcelo Martinessi’s “The Heiresses,” about a woman in her late 50’s facing a dramatic change in her financial circumstances after her partner is sent to jail for fraud, is also among the candidates for an award as well as Philippines’ Laz Diaz’s Marcos-era “Season of the Devil”.

This year six-member festival jury headed by leading German director Tom Tykwer has to choose from a total of 19 films when handing out the Berlinale’s prizes at a Hollywood-style gala ceremony on Saturday.

But while members of the European Film Market have reported a brisk trade in deals, there has been a shortage of audience-grabbing films to fire up the main part of the Berlinale and to create the sort of buzz that is the lifeblood of the world’s leading movie festivals.

It’s night and day from last year’s festivals. Two of the five films nominated for the best foreign language film for next month’s Oscars – “A Fantastic Woman” from Chilean director Sebastian Lelio and “On Body and Soul” from Hungary’s Ildikio Enyedi emerged from the 2017 Berlinale.

Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me by Your Name,” which also screened at the 2017 Berlinale, has been nominated as best picture at the Oscars.

The extended periods of brilliant winter sunshine this year seemed to do nothing to help lift the spirits of moviegoers with the 2018 festival also appearing to be a little low on its usual amount of star power.

The international A-list contingent walking the Berlinale’s red carpet largely came down to Robert Pattinson, Gael Garcia Bernal, Joaquin Phoenix, Isabelle Huppert, Jeff Goldblum, Steven Soderbergh and Bill Murray.

The 68th Berlinale was opened by the ever-popular Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs,” with the film winning acclaim among festival critics. Set in a futurist Japan, Anderson’s movie tells the story of a 12-year-old boy who is joined in his search on a garbage dump island for his lost dog by a collection of canines that also help him to fight off evil authoritarian political forces.

Paraguay’s Ana Brun, who starred as Chela in “The Heiresses,” has emerged as a leading contender for the festival’s best actress award, the highlight of a series of tour-de-force performances by actresses at the Berlinale. “The film is a quest for liberty in every sense, because my life has been very similar to that of Chela,” said Brun.

This year’s festival also sought to address concerns about sexual abuse in the film business by mounting a series of forums to discuss discrimination.

But then, the Berlinale prides itself on being one of the most political of the world’s major festivals, ever ready to tackle major political issues or tough social questions. “The festival reflects a sense of disquiet in the world,” Kosslick told a meeting of foreign correspondents this month. “The world is a tense and complex place,” he said.

In his movie, Poppe portrays the devastating events when Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in two rounds of attacks in Norway in July 2011, shattering the country’s cherished self-image of tolerance.

Coming in at just under four hours, the 59-year-old Diaz uses song in “Season of the Devil” to tell his story about the brutal efforts during Ferdinand Marcos’ 20-year dictatorship to keep the Filipino population under control.