Twenty titles will compete for the Golden Bear award on
Saturday night at the 2014 Berlinale although some critics have
called the lineup a letdown despite the screening of more than
400 films from around the globe.
"It's been a disappointing Berlinale and there isn't all that
much I think for the jury to ultimately really consider," said
Jay Weissberg, Europe-based critic for trade publication
His picks as frontrunners were Richard Linklater's docu-drama
"Boyhood", the harrowing "Kreuzweg" (Stations of the Cross),
which depicts a young girl's collapse under the pressures of
growing up in a strict Catholic family, and a drama about a
British soldier in Belfast in the movie "71".
Gory thriller "Black Coal, Thin Ice", one of three Chinese films
in competition, also earned positive reviews this week.
Weissberg thought the Texas-born Linklater's film, which follows
siblings Mason and Samantha, played by actors Ellar Coltrane and
Linklater's daughter Lorelei, as they grow from early childhood
to university age, would find particular favor with the jury's
president, American producer James Schamus.
He also thought Linklater's opus, despite containing a host of
peculiarly American cultural references, including a black
Pontiac GTO muscle car driven by the kids' divorced father and
Coltrane's character Mason receiving a U.S. savings bond for his
graduation, would not alienate viewers or a festival jury that
has a reputation for spurning American cinema.
"It works its charms and it's a wonderful idea," Weissberg said.
"There's enough there that anybody can identify with it."
His praise was strongly echoed in the European press.
"No film in sight can match "Boyhood" in staking a claim to the
Golden Bear," German daily Die Welt said on Friday, though it also
noted the festival's tendency to favor films from eastern Europe or
countries such as Turkey or Iran.
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Last year, Romania's "Child's Pose" took the top prize. No U.S.
movie has won in Berlin since Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" in
There was some grumbling among festival followers that the Berlinale,
renowned for offering up politically controversial films, had
instead this year apparently kowtowed to Hollywood, screening Wes
Anderson's Ruritanian romp "Grand Budapest Hotel" as the festival
opener and also providing the international premiere of George
Clooney's "Monuments Men".
Friday saw the screening of the last two films in the main
competition — veteran Japanese director Yoji Yamada's "The Little
House", a romance set in Tokyo before and during World War Two, and
"Macondo" about Chechen refugees in Austria.
"Macondo" uses non-actors to tell the story of Ramasan, an
11-year-old Chechen boy living with his widowed mother and two
sisters in a refugee settlement on the outskirts of Vienna.
Iranian-born Austrian director Sudabeh Mortezai explores the themes
of identity, masculinity and the difficulty of cultural and ethnic
integration in her documentary-like film.
"I get angry sometimes about the whole integration issue. There are
people who say, 'All these foreigners should just integrate'. I want
to explore the issue from the boy's perspective, to see what it is
really like growing up like this," she told a news conference.
The film's title is the nickname of the settlement, which really
exists and is currently home to some 2,000 people from 20 countries,
especially Chechnya, Afghanistan and Somalia.
"The people living there are part and parcel of the whole film,"
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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