Duds outweigh discoveries at Berlin film festival

Fri Feb 13, 2009 5:47am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - Duds stuck in the memory more than discoveries at the Berlin film festival, where critics were underwhelmed by the quality of the main competition line up.

As the 11-day annual showcase of international cinema draws to a close with the awards ceremony on Saturday, there are four or five out of 19 entries seen as contenders for best picture.

They are led by "London River," French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb's tale of an odd couple united in their search for two children missing after the 2005 suicide bomb attacks in London which killed 52 people.

Britain's Brenda Blethyn and Sotigui Kouyate of Mali gave compelling performances, and the picture's subject matter could boost its chances in the eyes of the jury.

Not everyone liked it, however, and there was no clear favorite for the coveted Golden Bear award in 2009.

"With no single stand out masterpiece, handicapping the Berlinale Golden Bear winner ... is proving a difficult task," Scott Roxborough wrote in The Hollywood Reporter.

"Whatever the choice, be certain it will be praised and damned in equal measure by critics here."

Broadly popular was "About Elly," about middle-class Iranians whose trip to the Caspian Sea turns to tragedy as they seek to uphold social customs by layering lie upon lie.   Continued...

<p>General view of the 'Cinema For Peace 2009' charity gala at the 59th Berlinale film festival in Berlin February 9, 2009. Picture taken February 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jens Kalaene/Pool</p>