The 55th Berlinale – The Berlin Film Festival

The 55th International Film Festival in Berlin took place from 10-20 February. Nearly 400.000 visitors from 106 countries, a total of 365 films available to the public (plus 412 Film Market screenings) – more than enough to satisfy even the hungriest film fanatic!

This year I concentrated even more on Asian films, than last year. In fact of the 3-5 non-Asian films, that I saw, none were worth mentioning. However, I did go to some press conferences to gaze at the stars. As usual, there were plenty to look at: Kevin Spacey, Dennis Quaid, Bob Hoskins, Kate Blanchett, Anjelica Houston, Keanu Reeves, George Michael, Kristin Scott Thomas, Will Smith, Catherine Deneuve and many others.

If you want to know all the facts about the festival, you should go to the Berlinale homepage, or if you just want to see, who won the prizes, you can download this file.

Asian Films
A lot of the Asian films presented in Berlin this year got prizes. Not only is the awareness of Asian films in Europe rising – the recognition rises right along with the number of films shown. I managed to see about twenty Asian films, but did not have time for more. If I had seen twice as many, I might have caught all the prizewinners!

The main competition included three Asian Films – and two of those won prizes!

Kong Que ("Peacock") from China won the Jury Grand Prize – a Silver Bear. Famous cinematographer Gu Changwei ("Farewell My Concubine" among others) directed for the first time. It is a beautiful film about the life of two brothers and their sister from 1977 to 1984.

Tian Bian Yi Duo Yun ("The Wayward Cloud") from Taiwan won no less than three prizes:
A Silver Bear for best script, the Alfred Bauer Prize for “taking art film in a new direction” and the Fipresci Prize (International Film Critics). Well known art film director Tsai Ming Liang really went to town on this one. Only one line of dialogue in the entire film, lots of pornographic images mixed with musical song and dance numbers – that’s art film for you! You may not like this film, but you will not forget it right away. Make your own judgement.

Kakushi Ken - Oni No Tsume ("The Hidden Blade") from Japan was the only Asian film in the main competition, that did not win anything – and in my opinion it was the best of the lot. Director Yoji Yamada (his "Twilight Samurai" was in the main competition in 2002) has made another masterful social realistic samurai film.

As you will have noticed, no Korean films were in the main competition this year. Disappointingly as this may be, it reflects the fact, that of Korean films shown in the second half of 2004 no really outstanding film comes to mind. (Kim Ki-duk’s "3-Iron" already won him the prize for best director at the Venice Film Festival in August 2004).

Of the Korean films shown in other competitions at Berlin both Yeoja, Jeong-hae ("This Charming Girl") and Nok-Saek-Eui-Ja ("Green Chair") would not have fallen through, if they had been shown in the main competition, and Nok-Saek-Eui-Ja won the NETPAC prize to prove its merits.

But after all Korean cinema did get a bear in Berlin – a Golden Bear even!

Veteran director Im Kwon-Taek got an honorary Golden Bear for his lifelong achievement. He just started production on his 100th film as a director! Most of his films are not known outside Korea, but in 2002 he won the Best Director award in Cannes for his "Chiwaseon". In a special retrospective program in Berlin seven of his best films were screened. Congratulations!

Of the Asian films that I liked or found interesting, you will hopefully see reviews on this site during the next couple of weeks:

Yeoja, Jeong-hae ("This Charming Girl")

Nok-Saek-Eui-Ja ("Green Chair")

Hauru No Ugoku Shiro ("Howl’s Moving Castle")

Hana To Alice ("Hana and Alice")

Kakushiken – Oni No Tsume ("The Hidden Blade")

Sekai No Owari ("World’s End/Girl Friend")

Hong Kong

Tao Se ("Colour Blossoms")
Hong Kong

Tian Bian Yi Duo Yun ("The Wayward Cloud")

Kong Que ("Peacock")

Some people took to calling the festival the Bai Ling-ale instead of the Berlinale. Jury member and actress Bai Ling was everywhere. Finding a picture where she was not in – and in a dazzling new, sexy outfit as well – was nearly impossible!

On that light note, it’s thank you for another great festival from this happy, but very tired reporter.

Uffe Stegmann, 27 February 2005