Berlin film fest honors can be a career boost

Mon Feb 9, 2009 8:25pm EST
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By Scott Roxborough and Borys Kit

BERLIN (Hollywood Reporter) - Berlin's Golden Bear is actually just gilded bronze, but its true value can be immeasurable.

Just ask Jose Padilha. The Brazilian director was an unknown with a single documentary under his belt when his first feature, "The Elite Squad," took Berlin's top prize last year. Now he's being chased by the U.S. studios, with projects in development at Universal, Lionsgate and Brad Pitt's Plan B production company.

"All these American projects came after Berlin and the Golden Bear," Padilha told The Hollywood Reporter. "It made a big, big difference to my career. I'm an independent filmmaker and it suddenly got a lot easier to finance my projects. I won't say people started calling me to give me money but now, when I call, they pick up the phone."

Or ask Fatih Akin. The German director went from being an insider's tip to one of the hottest European talents overnight after his hard-hitting romance "Head-On" won gold in 2004. European Film Awards followed. As did invites to Cannes -- first on the jury then in competition with "The Edge of Heaven." Akin's position on the international cadre of directors was confirmed again when he was invited, alongside luminaries including Mira Nair, Scarlett Johansson, Brett Ratner and Natalie Portman to shoot a short for the omnibus film "New York, I Love You."

U.S. deals sometimes trail in the path of the Golden Bear: Paul Greengrass went from doing British TV drama to "The Bourne Supremacy" after his "Bloody Sunday" nabbed Berlin's top prize in 2002.

But even for those majority of winners who never go Hollywood, the Golden Bear can be an important asset in getting your next film off the ground.

"After I won, it became so much easier to get my second feature made," said Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic, a 2006 Golden Bear winner for "Grbavica."

"My first film took almost three years to finance and now, when I went around I was able to talk to all the funding bodies, all the producers right away."   Continued...