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Last Updated: Monday, 12 February 2007, 17:49 GMT
Film awards aim for better world

By Tristana Moore
BBC News, Berlin

Cinema for Peace press conference
The Cinema for Peace gala raises funds for charities like Unicef
Berlin is flogging its stars these days.

TV camera crews from all over the world are in town because the 57th annual Berlin Film Festival - the Berlinale - is under way.

But amid all the glamour and film premieres, there is another event vying for media attention - Cinema for Peace, which has been described by Bob Geldof as "the Oscars with brains".

The international charity gala, which takes place annually at the Berlinale, is the place to be seen for any Hollywood star who is proud of having a social conscience.

At a news conference at the plush Adlon hotel on Monday, there was a star-studded line-up as Richard Gere and Catherine Deneuve rubbed shoulders with Christopher Lee and Bob Geldof.

With Germany holding the presidency of the G8 group of eight powerful nations, their message was simple - the German government, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, has a responsibility to take action to solve some of the world's most pressing problems, such as ending poverty and tackling human rights abuses.

Tibet challenge

Tibetan monks
Gere urged politicians to challenge China over Tibet
"Please forget the fact that I make movies," Richard Gere told the audience. "I am here as chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet."

He showed journalists excerpts of a video made by the Romanian cameraman Sergiu Matei.

According to campaigners, the video reveals a group of Tibetan refugees who came under fire from Chinese guards at the Nangpa Pass on the border between China and Nepal last September.

The border incident, in which a nun was killed, prompted an international outcry and human rights groups called for a UN investigation.

"The Chinese authorities said they were acting in self-defence, but that is not true," said Gere.

"As you hear on the video, the Chinese border guards were shooting at the Tibetan refugees like dogs.

"I am calling on Chancellor Merkel to encourage China to become part of the modern world.

"These actions cannot be tolerated," the Pretty Woman star, 57, said.

"Tibet should be ever-present in any discussion with China."

China has exercised harsh rule over Tibet since communist troops marched into the country in 1950.

Bob Geldof
We're not asking for more money. We're just asking world leaders to keep their promises
Bob Geldof
The chancellor has publicly raised the broader issue of human rights with Chinese leaders, saying during a visit to Beijing last May that they were "an important issue of bilateral dialogue".

Poverty plea

Gere, along with Geldof and other artists, has launched an initiative to raise awareness of global poverty and human rights issues in the run-up to the G8 summit, which is being held at the seaside resort of Heiligendamm from 6-8 June.

"Here we are, a fading Irish pop star, sex gods and sex goddesses," Geldof told the news conference, "but we are here for a reason.

"Germany made a historic promise to help end poverty in Africa at the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005.

"Chancellor Merkel has reiterated her commitment, but the question is: 'How are you going to meet your commitment, and when?'

"I can't understand how Germany, with its huge GDP, has difficulty keeping its commitment to poverty," he continued.

"The G8 leaders set their own goals in 2005. We're not asking for more money. We're just asking world leaders to keep their promises."

Award gala

Forest Whitaker
Whitaker earns a Cinema for Peace award for his portrayal of Idi Amin
On Monday evening, the organisers of Cinema for Peace Film are giving out awards at a red carpet gala in Berlin's Konzerthaus.

The top prize is for the "most valuable" movie of the year, which members of the jury regard "as the clearest and most effective contribution to a more peaceful world".

This year, Clint Eastwood picked up the award for his World War II dramas Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima.

Forest Whitaker received the best actor award for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.

The jury called Whitaker's performance "a stunning portrayal of an unbelievable human monster".

Richard Gere, Catherine Deneuve, Sharon Stone and other celebrities, alongside representatives of Unicef, are attending the charity event.

According to the organisers, the proceeds will be given to children in Darfur and Tibetan refugees.

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