Childhood epic, religious drama vie for Berlin film prize

Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:17am EST
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By Michael Roddy and Gareth Jones

BERLIN (Reuters) - Films ranging from a coming-of-age docudrama using the same actors over a 12-year span, a feature about radical Catholics and an unflinching look at Northern Ireland's troubles stand out as possible winners at the annual Berlin film festival.

Twenty titles will compete for the Golden Bear award on Saturday night at the 2014 Berlinale although some critics have called the lineup a letdown despite the screening of more than 400 films from around the globe.

"It's been a disappointing Berlinale and there isn't all that much I think for the jury to ultimately really consider," said Jay Weissberg, Europe-based critic for trade publication Variety.

His picks as frontrunners were Richard Linklater's docu-drama "Boyhood", the harrowing "Kreuzweg" (Stations of the Cross), which depicts a young girl's collapse under the pressures of growing up in a strict Catholic family, and a drama about a British soldier in Belfast in the movie "71".

Gory thriller "Black Coal, Thin Ice", one of three Chinese films in competition, also earned positive reviews this week.

Weissberg thought the Texas-born Linklater's film, which follows siblings Mason and Samantha, played by actors Ellar Coltrane and Linklater's daughter Lorelei, as they grow from early childhood to university age, would find particular favor with the jury's president, American producer James Schamus.

He also thought Linklater's opus, despite containing a host of peculiarly American cultural references, including a black Pontiac GTO muscle car driven by the kids' divorced father and Coltrane's character Mason receiving a U.S. savings bond for his graduation, would not alienate viewers or a festival jury that has a reputation for spurning American cinema.

"WONDERFUL IDEA"   Continued...

Director, screenwriter and producer Richard Linklater and cast members Lorelei Linklater, Ellar Coltrane and Patricia Arquette (L-R) pose during a photocall to promote the movie "Boyhood" during the 64th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz