Berlin critics back Russia, Romania, Polanski films

Fri Feb 19, 2010 4:27am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - Fittingly for a festival where low-budget movies jostle with big Hollywood names, three small eastern European entries and Roman Polanski's picture starring Ewan McGregor are favorites for the main prize in Berlin.

The 60th Berlin film festival closes on Saturday with an awards ceremony where the Golden Bear for best picture is announced along with a host of other prizes.

The gala event brings the curtain down on the 10-day cinema showcase where Leonardo DiCaprio, Renee Zellweger, Martin Scorsese and Ben Stiller have walked the red carpet and the simultaneous European Film Market has seen business pick up.

Guessing the winner from 20 competition films is notoriously difficult, with plenty of surprises in recent years, and the 2010 race looks wide open. But critics are expecting the closing ceremony to have a distinctly east European flavor.

Polish-French director Polanski, who is under house arrest in Switzerland and so could not attend the world premiere of "The Ghost Writer," won Berlin's top award in 1966 with "Cul-de-Sac," and would be a popular choice 44 years on.

His political thriller, completed when he was in prison and under house arrest, centers around an ex-British prime minister whose support for U.S. military policies sees him accused of war crimes, a thinly veiled reference to Tony Blair.

Polanski, 76, is fighting extradition to the United States where he is wanted for having under-aged sex in a case that goes back more than 30 years.

Narrowly ahead of him in Screen International's informal poll of critics are two movies: "How I Ended This Summer" from Russia's Alexei Popogrebsky and "If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle" from Romanian director Florin Serban.   Continued...