Iran, Hungary, Germany films vie for Berlin prize

Thu Feb 17, 2011 2:10pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Iranian drama "Nader and Simin: A Separation" is seen as the narrow favorite to win the coveted Golden Bear for best picture at the 2011 Berlin film festival when it ends with the prize giving ceremony on Saturday.

But dark Hungarian tale "The Turin Horse," shot in black and white, and "If Not Us, Who," a nuanced portrayal of the birth of the German guerilla Red Army Faction, have emerged as strong contenders toward the end of the 10-day cinema showcase.

Nader and Simin is a subtle examination of Iran's social divide and religious traditions, and fits in neatly with what some German media have dubbed the "Iranian Berlinale."

The festival opened with calls for Iran to allow director Jafar Panahi to travel to Berlin and accept his invitation to sit on the jury.

Panahi was sentenced to six years in jail and banned from making movies or traveling abroad for 20 years after being accused of inciting opposition protests in 2009 and making a film without permission.

His absence was marked with an empty chair alongside jury head Isabella Rossellini at the opening press conference.

"Just when it seemed impossible for Iranian filmmakers to express themselves meaningfully outside the bounds of censorship, Asghar Farhadi's Nader and Simin ... comes along to prove the contrary," said Hollywood Reporter's Deborah Young.

What the reviewers say and judges decide often differ, however, making it an unpredictable event with many surprises in recent years. Just one competition films of the 16 in contention for awards has yet to screen.   Continued...

<p>A golden Berlinale bear award statuette is pictured during the gilding process at the Schroeder Galvanik electroplating factory in Berlin, February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz</p>