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Iran drama wins top awards at Berlin film festival

posted 19 Feb 2011, 12:23 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 19 Feb 2011, 12:25 ]

Iranian drama "Nader and Simin: A Separation" wins the Golden Bear for best picture at the Berlin film festival on Saturday 9February 19), while its ensemble cast also picked up the best actor and actress prizes on a triumphant night.

BERLIN, GERMANY (FEBRUARY 19, 2011) ZDF - Director Asghar Farhadi's portrayal of a marriage in crisis was favourite for the coveted award on Saturday (February 19) after winning praise for its subtle exploration of Iran's class divisions and religious conservatism combined with the tension of a crime thriller.

Farhadi paid tribute to fellow Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi, who was unable to accept Berlin's invitation to sit on the main jury after being sentenced to six years in jail and banned from making movies or traveling abroad for 20 years.

He stands accused of inciting opposition protests in 2009 and making a film without permission, and his sentence has caused an outcry in the movie making world.

"I want to remind you of Jafar Panahi," Farhadi told the glitzy awards ceremony. "I really think his problem will be solved, and I hope he will be the one standing here next year."

Panahi's absence was marked with an empty chair alongside jury head Isabella Rossellini at the opening press conference, and some German media have dubbed this year's cinema showcase

the "Iranian Berlinale".

In Nader and Simin, one family is pitted against another in a gripping legal tussle which highlights the gap between middle class "intellectuals" and poorer, traditional Iranians for whom religious beliefs and honour tend to be more important.

The runner-up film prize, which comes with a Silver Bear, went to Hungarian director Bela Tarr's black-and-white "The Turin Horse", a slow-moving, bleak film about a farmer and his

daughter's forsaken lives in a windswept, isolated house.

The love-it-or-loathe picture, which Tarr had said would be his last, sharply divided critics, but its stark images, sparse dialogue and piercing score were considered among the most

impressive at this year's festival.

One of the few surprises at the awards, which wound up the 10-day event where hundreds of new films are shown to the press and potential buyers, was the best director award to Germany's

Ulrich Koehler for the generally unfancied "Sleeping Sickness".

Best script went to Joshua Marston and Andamion Murataj for "The Forgiveness of Blood", which looks at the tragic consequences of the ancient traditions of blood feuds which are

still enforced in some parts of rural Albania today.