Last Updated: Sat Feb 19, 2011 23:40 pm (KSA) 20:40 pm (GMT)

Hot favorite from Iran scoops top Berlin film award

Nader And Simin - A Separation
Nader And Simin - A Separation

Iranian drama "Nader and Simin: A Separation" won the Golden Bear for best picture at the Berlin film festival on Saturday, while its ensemble cast also picked up the best actor and actress prizes on a triumphant night.

Director Asghar Farhadi's portrayal of a marriage in crisis was favourite for the coveted award after winning praise for its subtle exploration of Iran's class divisions and religious conservatism combined with the tension of a crime thriller.

Farhadi paid tribute to fellow Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi, who was unable to accept Berlin's invitation to sit on the main jury after being sentenced to six years in jail and banned from making movies or travelling abroad for 20 years.

He stands accused of inciting opposition protests in 2009 and making a film without permission, and his sentence has caused an outcry in the movie making world.

"I want to remind you of Jafar Panahi," Farhadi told the glitzy awards ceremony. "I really think his problem will be solved, and I hope he will be the one standing here next year."

Panahi's absence was marked with an empty chair alongside jury head Isabella Rossellini at the opening press conference, and some German media have dubbed this year's cinema showcase the "Iranian Berlinale".

In Nader and Simin, one family is pitted against another in a gripping legal tussle which highlights the gap between middle class "intellectuals" and poorer, traditional Iranians for whom religious beliefs and honour tend to be more important.

Dark tale of a horse

The runner-up film prize, which comes with a Silver Bear, went to Hungarian director Bela Tarr's black-and-white "The Turin Horse", a slow-moving, bleak feature about a farmer and his daughter's forsaken lives in a windswept, isolated house.

The love-it-or-loathe-it picture, which Tarr has said would be his last, sharply divided critics, but its stark images, sparse dialogue and piercing score were considered among the most memorable at this year's festival.

One of the few surprises at the awards, which wound up the 10-day event where hundreds of new films are shown to the press and potential buyers, was the best director prize to Germany's Ulrich Koehler for the generally unfancied "Sleeping Sickness".

Best script went to Joshua Marston and Andamion Murataj for "The Forgiveness of Blood", which looks at the sometimes tragic consequences of ancient codes governing blood feuds which are still enforced in some parts of rural Albania today.

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