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Chinese Thriller Takes Top Berlin Prize

Diao Yinan (R) director of "Bai Ri Yan Huo" (Black Coal, Thin Ice) poses with his Golden Bear for Best Film next to actor Liao Fan (L) who poses with his Silver Bear for Best Actor during a news conference after the awards ceremony of the 64th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 15, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Diao Yinan (R) director of “Bai Ri Yan Huo” (Black Coal, Thin Ice) poses with his Golden Bear for Best Film next to actor Liao Fan (L) who poses with his Silver Bear for Best Actor during a news conference after the awards ceremony of the 64th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 15, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

BERLIN (Reuters) – Michael Roddy and Alexandra Hudson report: Asian films were big winners at the Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday, led by gritty Chinese thriller “Bai Ri Yan Huo” (Black Coal, Thin Ice) about an overweight detective pursuing a serial killer which took the top Golden Bear prize.

“We are seeing Chinese cinema becoming more cinematically adept, not so overtly political. Chinese film makers are more confident, more open to the world”

— Scott Roxborough, Berlin bureau chief for the Hollywood Reporter

Liao Fan, who said he put on 20 kg (44 lb) and drank more alcohol to play the role of detective Zhang Zili, was named Best Actor.

“Chinese films are accepted more and more,” Diao Yinan, director of the winning film, told reporters.

“It seems every time we take them abroad, there is a greater enthusiasm for Chinese cinema. We hadn’t expected that, but film is global nowadays.”

[Now in paperback: 101 Essential Chinese Movies at Amazon] [Also, China on Screen: Cinema and Nation (Film and Culture Series) at Amazon]

Asked about censorship in China, Diao said: “Of course there is censorship, I believe that exists around the whole world, doesn’t it? When it comes to Chinese censorship, I think the fact we are here in Berlin shows our censors are becoming more open, although there are difficulties.”

Haru Kuroki, who won Best Actress for her portrayal of a housemaid in Tokyo before and during World War Two in the Japanese film “Chiisai Ouchi” (The Little House), said she wanted to leap for joy but wearing a kimono made it difficult.

American Richard Linklater was named Best Director for his coming-of-age film “Boyhood”, which uses the same child actors over a 12-year span, while Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel”, the festival opener set in a fictional central European country, took the Silver Bear grand jury prize.

Asked if he was disappointed, Linklater, whose film was popular with Berlin audiences, said: “With this, film making, you are working for yourself to realize your own visions, you are not thinking about prizes.”

The Ethiopian film “Difret”, based on a real case of bride abduction in Ethiopia and backed by actress Angelina Jolie, took the audience award.

“I’d expected the Chinese films to do really well and ‘Black Coal, Thin Ice’ is very good,” said Scott Roxborough, Berlin bureau chief for the Hollywood Reporter.

He noted that Berlin had given the Golden Bear to the Chinese film “Red Sorghum” in 1988, and said “Black Coal, Thin Ice” was “film noir” in the style of Quentin Tarantino and other Hollywood directors, and not in the mould of traditional Chinese kung fu films or period dramas.

“We are seeing Chinese cinema becoming more cinematically adept, not so overtly political. Chinese film makers are more confident, more open to the world,” Roxborough said.

“China is the second biggest box office in the world, one day it will take over from America, so people expect more stories of all kinds.”

Set in northern China, “Black Coal, Thin Ice” pits Liao’s detective, who at one point loses his badge after a shootout in a beauty parlor, against a killer who disposes of dismembered feet in skates, an eye in a bowl of noodles, and other body parts in coal trucks.

Although the opening scene is set in a hot summer, the rest unfolds five years later, almost entirely in winter….

Read the rest…

Reuters – Yahoo News

(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; additional reporting by Juliane Keck; Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Kevin Liffey)

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