— Asian films were big
winners at the Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday, led
by gritty Chinese thriller "Bai Ri Yan Huo" (Black Coal, Thin Ice)
about an overweight detective pursuing a serial killer which took
the top Golden Bear prize.
Liao Fan, who said he put on 20 kg (44 lb) and drank more
alcohol to play the role of detective Zhang Zili, was named Best
"Chinese films are accepted more and more," Diao Yinan, director
of the winning film, told reporters.
"It seems every time we take them abroad, there is a greater
enthusiasm for Chinese cinema. We hadn't expected that, but film
is global nowadays."
Asked about censorship in China, Diao said: "Of course there is
censorship, I believe that exists around the whole world,
doesn't it? When it comes to Chinese censorship, I think the
fact we are here in Berlin shows our censors are becoming more
open, although there are difficulties."
Haru Kuroki, who won Best Actress for her portrayal of a
housemaid in Tokyo before and during World War Two in the
Japanese film "Chiisai Ouchi" (The Little House), said she
wanted to leap for joy but wearing a kimono made it difficult.
American Richard Linklater was named Best Director for his
coming-of-age film "Boyhood", which uses the same child actors
over a 12-year span, while Wes Anderson's "Grand Budapest
Hotel", the festival opener set in a fictional central European
country, took the Silver Bear grand jury prize.
Asked if he was disappointed, Linklater, whose film was popular
with Berlin audiences, said: "With this, film making, you are
working for yourself to realize your own visions, you are not
thinking about prizes."
The Ethiopian film "Difret", based on a real case of bride
abduction in Ethiopia and backed by actress Angelina Jolie, took
the audience award.
"I'd expected the Chinese films to do really well and 'Black
Coal, Thin Ice' is very good," said Scott Roxborough, Berlin
bureau chief for the Hollywood Reporter.
He noted that Berlin had given the Golden Bear to the Chinese
film "Red Sorghum" in 1988, and said "Black Coal, Thin Ice" was
"film noir" in the style of Quentin Tarantino and other
Hollywood directors, and not in the mould of traditional Chinese
kung fu films or period dramas.
MOVE OVER, HOLLYWOOD
"We are seeing Chinese cinema becoming more cinematically adept,
not so overtly political. Chinese film makers are more
confident, more open to the world," Roxborough said.
"China is the second-biggest box office in the
world, one day it will take over from America, so people expect more
stories of all kinds."
Set in northern China, "Black Coal, Thin Ice" pits
Liao's detective, who at one point loses his badge after a shootout
in a beauty parlor, against a killer who disposes of dismembered
feet in skates, an eye in a bowl of noodles, and other body parts in
Although the opening scene is set in a hot summer, the rest unfolds
five years later, almost entirely in winter.
Director Diao, who won awards for "Night Train" in 2007, said he had
ignored advice that "Cold films don't sell". He said he wanted to
portray the warmth of emotions beneath to help people "feel less
alone with our dark side".
The Berlin festival, officially called the Berlinale, is one of the
oldest and most prestigious film showcases in the world.
Some critics complained of a dearth of strong
entries among the competition films and there was grumbling that the
festival, renowned for films with strong political agendas, had
given too much space to Hollywood with Anderson's movie and the
international premiere of George Clooney's "The Monuments Men".
"There was never a line-up which was good for the critics, such a
line-up doesn't exist," festival director Dieter Kosslick told
Reuters on the red carpet before the awards.
The festival showed more than 400 films overall, including a series
of movies on cooking and food and an unfinished documentary by
veteran filmmaker Martin Scorsese about the political and literary
journal The New York Review of Books.
(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson;
additional reporting by Juliane Keck; writing by Michael Roddy;
editing by Andrew Heavens and Kevin Liffey)