Beatrice Ní Bhroin reports on Berlinale 2009, which took place 5–15 February 2009.
The Berlinale broke into another snowy February and opened with Tom Tykwer’s The International, a German-American co-production starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, with the director and actors Clive Owen, Ulrich Thomsen and Armin Mueller-Stahl in attendance. As ever, the Berlinale delivered a star-flooded red carpet that continued throughout the festival, with many directors and actors making appearances at their screenings, and most taking questions from the attendees.
The festival is now in its 59th year and welcomes grand productions and arthouse films alike, with substantial audiences for all categories. There were over 20 films in competition with strong contenders from across the globe. These included the English period piece Chéri, directed by Stephen Frears, with actors Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend and Kathy Bates. Chéri sees a younger man fall passionately for an older woman, a theme that was explored in several prominent films during the festival including The Reader and The Countess.
Demi Moore headlined the acclaimed Happy Tears, with Parker Posey in a film by Mitchell Lichtenstein. This sometimes-surreal picture deals with complicated family relations and gets laughs where films often don’t dare to go. Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton carry the seriously intense The Messenger with Oren Moverman in the director’s seat. This present day film captures the poisonous elements of the Iraq war that are dealt with away from the battleground. Also in competition was the English production London River, based around the 5th July terrorist bombings in London in 2005. Actors Brenda Blethyn, Sotigui Kouyaté, Roschdy Zem and Sami Bouajila are directed by Rachid Bouchareb of Dust of Life fame.
Accompanying the eleven film screening sections was the Berlinale Talent Campus. This is a creative platform for young filmmakers to meet internationally acclaimed experts and to get involved in one-to-one hands-on training. 350 young film industry hopefuls and students were picked to take part in the campus, giving them a chance to meet Berlinale jury president Tilda Swinton, the British film composer Max Richter (Waltz with Bashir), and filmmaker Wim Wenders, amongst others. Many of the talks were open to the public and allowed attendees the chance to get some tips from the professionals while discussing popular themes and concerns in filmmaking today.
Ireland was well represented in the festival with the feature Cherrybomb, directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and husband Glenn Leyburn. This gritty coming-of age drama set in Belfast includes Harry Potter star Rupert Grint alongside Robert Sheehan and Kimberley Nixon with James Nesbitt. Also in the Generation selection was Brendan and the Secret of Kells by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, described as ‘transforming the mythical world of the Book of Kells into a multi-dimensional, calligraphic renaissance’.
Last year, Irish filmmaker David O’Reilly came away with a Special Mention his short animation RGB XYZ. This year, he topped that by winning the Golden Bear for the best short with the animated film Please Say Something. The cat and mouse characters explore a special kind of relationship in a fantasy world that reflects our own engagement with big cities.
Elegantly accepting a Shooting Star Award was Sarah Bolger (In America, The Spiderwick Chronicles) who attended the festival to collect the award. Ten up-and-coming actors are selected each year from across Europe highlighting the Shooting Star’s blooming career in film.
For a full listing of the award-winners, please click here.