Italian prison drama wins best film in Berlin

Sat Feb 18, 2012 4:51pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - "Caesar Must Die," a docu-drama in which murderers and mafiosi act out a Shakespearean tragedy in a high-security Italian jail, won the Golden Bear award for best picture at the Berlin film festival on Saturday.

The black-and-white movie, called "Cesare deve morire" in Italian and directed by veteran brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, was among the favorites to scoop the coveted honor.

The Tavianis - Paolo is 80 and Vittorio 82 - followed a group of convicts in the Rebibbia jail on the outskirts of Rome as they rehearse "Julius Caesar" for a prison production.

The play's themes of power and corruption, murder and vengeance clearly resonate with hardened convicts serving sentences of between 14 years and life, resulting in moving performances from a mostly untrained cast.

The Golden Bear, which can help launch a film onto the international stage as it did the feted Iranian drama "A Separation" in 2011, is the Tavianis' biggest award since "Padre Padrone" won the Palme d'Or in Cannes 35 years ago.

The prize ceremony brought to a close the 10-day cinema showcase, where hundreds of films vied for the attention of the world's media and movie executives at the European Film Market.

Once again, festival director Dieter Kosslick had to juggle getting established stars on the red carpet with selecting hard-hitting, low-budget films that might otherwise struggle for audiences.

Critics said he just about managed it in 2012, with Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and "Twilight" heartthrob Robert Pattinson drawing big crowds to the festival's central cinema.   Continued...

Directors Vittorio (R) and Paolo Taviani hold the Golden Bear award for the best film 'Caesare Deve Morire' ('Caesar Must Die') as they pose during a news conference after the awards ceremony of the 62nd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 18, 2012.         REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz