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Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 11:03 GMT
Glamour still key at Berlin festival
Sam Rockwell gives George Clooney a kiss after picking up his prize
There was plenty of passion on show

The Berlin Film Festival may be about serious film making and film makers but old fashioned glamour remains key.

"Whoooh" went the crowd as George Clooney stepped out of his car and onto the red carpet.

The star is repositioning himself as a serious filmmaker with his directorial debut but for the fans in Berlin it is his Hollywood status which has the most appeal.

Clooney was one of the biggest stars at the Berlinale Palast, the venue for Germany's biggest film awards ceremony. But it was not going to be George's night.

The international jury of the Berlin film festival ignored Clooney's spy thriller Confessions of a Dangerous mind.

Glitz

Instead, Berlin's equivalent of the Oscar for best film, the Golden Bear, went to Michael Winterbottom's In This World, about refugees fleeing the bombing of Afghanistan - a fitting conclusion perhaps, to a film festival with the motto Towards Tolerance.

Stephen Daldry
Daldry got close to The Hours' awards
The 53 year old event may not have all the glitz of Cannes or Los Angeles, but it still counts as one of the most important events in the movie industry.

Winterbottom, has previously won critical acclaim for 24-Hour Party People and Welcome to Sarajevo.

In his acceptance speech he paid special tribute to the two main actors of his film, genuine Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

Applause

The director dedicated his award to all Afghan refugees, and to other people in the world, "who are facing the choice of whether to stay and face hardship and danger or flee and try to make a new life elsewhere".

The applause was polite and measured. There were no whoops. After all, this is not the Oscars.

Another difference between the Berlinale and the Academy Awards, is that in Germany, the gala's hostess doubles up as simultaneous interpreter.

Unfortunately, Anke Engelke's credentials as an international communicator were somewhat dented when the Hong Kong director and screenwriter Li Yang, accepted an artistic contribution award for his film Blind Shaft in his native language.

She joked that all she could hear in Chinese was "fuji, fuji fuji".

Awards also went to the Senegalese film "Madame Brouette" for best film music, and the director, Moussa Sene Absa was clearly delighted, saying the festival was a great platform for African film.

Gala screening

But after a fortnight of mainly independent world cinema, the people wanted glamour, and alongside Clooney, only Daniel Day-Lewis made the grade.

Li Yang
There were translation problems for Li Yang
He was in Berlin for the gala screening of his latest film "Gangs of New York", which was shown straight after the awards ceremony.

This being Germany, plenty of home-grown stars and up-and-coming actors were out in force, like Hannelore Elsner and Benno Fuermann.

And there was a consolation prize for George Clooney. The star of his film, Sam Rockwell, won the Silver Bear award for Best Actor.

In This World was shot on hand-held cameras by two young Afghan actors and was half funded by the BBC.

Head of BBC Films David Thompson said: "This is a low budget film with remarkable ambition, which takes the audience on a journey with the young refugees across the continents from Afghanistan to the UK in the hope of starting a new life.

"At a time when asylum seekers are in the news this film offers an extraordinary insight into the reality behind the headlines."

See also:

16 Feb 03 | Entertainment
06 Feb 03 | Entertainment
13 Jan 03 | Entertainment
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