The 55th Berlin Film Festival ended Sunday with Germany's Julia Jentsch winning the best actress award while "Carmen in Khayelitsha" by director Mark Dornford-May clinched the coveted Golden Bear for best movie.
And the winner is...
Julia Jentsch in the Film "Sophie Scholl - The Final Days"
The 55th Berlinale handed out its top prizes over a glamorous weekend marked by several surprises and upsets. Germany's Julia Jentsch won the Silver Bear award for best actress at the Berlin Film Festival for her role in "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days", a true story about a young German student's defiance in the face of Hitler's Gestapo.
"I'm thrilled to be here in Berlin and to accept this award," said Jentsch, in a surprise appearance at the awards press conference in which she also gave a heartfelt thanks to the film's cast and crew.
German actress Franka Potente ("Bourne Identity"), who joined jury president director Roland Emmerich in announcing the prize winner, fought back tears as she watched Jentsch give her acceptance speech. Marc Rothemund also won a Silver Bear for best director for the film.
Golden Bear to outsider
South African actors along with director Mark Dornford-May
The Golden Bear went to a relative outsider, the film "Carmen Khayelitsha" by South African director Mark Dornford-May. It edged out a clutch of hard-hitting political dramas.
The film transfers Georg Bizet's timeless opera Carmen from the slums of 19th century Spain to the present-day township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa. It stars Pauline Malefane as Carmen.
The libretto was translated into Xhosa -- the first time a major western opera has been translated into a black South African language. It was only the second South African feature ever to compete for a Golden Bear at the Berlinale, which ranks along with Cannes and Venice among Europe's top film festivals.
The best actor Silver Bear award went to Lou Taylor Pucci for "Thumbsucker." (photo) Pucci, from the United States, played a 17-year-old who still sucks his thumb in a bitter-sweet film about dysfunctional families and American society directed by Mike Mills.
Racy porn and family saga
The remaining prizes were distributed at a gala ceremony on Berlin's Potsdamer Platz late Saturday. A Golden Bear traditionally guarantees a picture wide international distribution and a box office boost. The award was widely expected to go to a more topical film, with
"Sometimes in April" on the 1994 Rwandan genocide and "Paradise Now" (photo), an arguably sympathetic portrait of Palestinian suicide bombers, among the favorites.
The Jury Grand Prix, the runner-up for best film, went to
Chinese family chronical "Peacock" (Kong Que) by Gu Changwei, while the racy Taiwanese porn musical "The Wayward Cloud" (Tian bian yi duo yun) won a Silver Bear for an outstanding artistic contribution.
The Blue Angel award for best European film, named for the late German screen goddess Marlene Dietrich's signature role, went to "Paradise Now". The winner receives a cash prize of € 25,000 (nearly $33,000). The Silver Bear for best music went to Alexandre Desplat, for his work in "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" (De battre mon coeur s'est arrete).
Many critics complained that the field of 22 pictures in
competition was uneven with few world-class features. Major stars were also thin on the ground, despite the appearances of Cate Blanchett, Will Smith, Catherine Deneuve, Anjelica Huston, Kevin Spacey, Keanu Reeves and pop legend George Michael, who was promoting his biopic.
The 11-day festival wraps up Sunday with screenings of popular films featured at the event.