February 20, 2010 / 7:49 PM / 8 years ago

Turkish film wins in Berlin, Polanski honored

<p>(L-R) Producer Johannes Rexin and Bettina Brokemper, actor Erdal Besikcioglu, director Hasan Semih Kaplanoglu, actor Bora Altas and actress Tuelin Oezen pose during a photocall to promote the movie "Bal" (Honey) at the Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 16, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Charisius</p>

BERLIN (Reuters) - Turkish drama “Honey” was the surprise winner of the Golden Bear for best picture at the Berlin film festival on Saturday, and Roman Polanski, fighting extradition to the United States, claimed the director prize.

Honey (“Bal”) is the final installment of director Semih Kaplanoglu’s trilogy which began with “Milk” and “Egg.”

Critics praised the powerful simplicity of the tale about six-year-old Yusuf, who wanders into the woods to find his beloved beekeper father when he goes missing.

The moving father-son drama is shot in lush mountain forests and has no soundtrack, and Bora Altas’ performance as Yusuf was singled out.

“The central performance is touching, truthful and overpoweringly charming, one of those classic screen turns by a child, up there with The Kid and The Red Balloon,” wrote Nigel Andrews of the Financial Times.

Altas, 8, stole the show at a press conference for the movie, barely able to see over the top of the rostrum and clutching a teddy bear.

While popular among audiences, the choice of Honey came as a surprise, with several other competition entries considered more likely to take the top honor at the 60th Berlinale.

Among them was Polanski’s political thriller “The Ghost Writer,” which he completed while in jail and under house arrest.

The movie stars Ewan McGregor as the nameless writer and Pierce Brosnan as a former British prime minister, based on Tony Blair, who is dragged into a scandal when a colleague accuses him of war crimes for supporting U.S. military policies.

Polanski, 76, was arrested in September when traveling to Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at a festival. He is still wanted after fleeing the United States on the eve of his 1978 sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Ghost Writer producer Alain Sarde told the awards ceremony how he was “lamenting” with Polanski that the director could not be in Berlin to accept his prize.

He said Polanski replied: “Even if I could I wouldn’t go, because the last time I went to a festival to get a prize I ended up in jail.”

RUSSIAN, ROMANIAN SUCCESS

Russia’s “How I Ended This Summer” and Romanian entry “If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle” were both multiple winners.

How I Ended, set in gigantic, windswept landscapes of the Arctic Circle, is about two men working at a remote weather station completely cut off from the outside world.

The cast of two -- Grigori Dobrygin and Sergei Puskepalis -- shared the best actor award, while the movie also won a silver bear for outstanding artistic contribution.

If I Want to Whistle, a prison drama about a teenager’s desperate bid to escape, won the runner-up jury prize and the Alfred-Bauer award for cinematic innovation.

Japan’s Shinobu Terajima was named best actress for her role in “Caterpillar,” where she plays the wife of a decorated soldier who returns home from the Sino-Japanese war mute and with no arms and legs.

The bleak picture is a condemnation of how fighting is romanticized, often burying the grim truth of battle, as well as the unfair expectations placed on Japanese women in times of war and peace.

Wang Quan‘an picked up the screenplay award for “Apart Together,” another examination of the fallout of conflict which follows an elderly couple reunited decades after they were separated in the chaos of the Chinese civil war.

Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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