Magnolia Blooms in Berlin
50th Berlin International Film Festival
feature by Eddie Cockrell, 25 February 2000

(Berlin, 20 February) Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, a multi-character epic meditation on millennial malaise and the crossed wires of human communication, connected with the International Jury of the 50th Berlin International Film Festival, who awarded the film the coveted Golden Berlin Bear at a press conference this afternoon. The commendation, which was read by jury president Gong Li in Mandarin and translated into German and English, was greeted with enthusiastic applause by the gathered journalists. The picture also copped the Reader’s Prize of the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper and was a big hit with local audiences at its public shows.

The second place prize, called the Jury Grand Prix, went to Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s The Road Home (the film also won the prize of the Churches of the Ecumnical Jury). The Best Director Silver Bear was won by Milos Forman for Man on the Moon. For the second year in a row, the Best Actress Silver Bear was split by two German actresses, Bibiana Beglau and Nadja Uhl, for their performances in Volker Schlondorff’s Cold War-set drama The Legends of Rita (Schlondorff also won the “Blue Angel” prize for the film). As expected, Denzel Washington won the Best Actor Silver Bear for his role as boxer Rubin Carter in Hurricane (the film itself also picked up the prize of the Guild of German Art House Cinemas).

The Alfred Bauer Prize for a film debut went to Akira Ogata’s Japanese drama Boy’s Choir, while the entire cast of Berlin-based Rudolf Thome’s Paradiso-Seven Days with Seven Women won a special Silver Berlin Bear for Outstanding Achievement.

In an otherwise calm press conference, a chorus of boos broke out when a jury prize went to Wim Wenders’ The Million Dollar Hotel, which was the festival’s opening night film. Critics seemed to be split on the Mel Gibson starrer, with Europeans praising it for it’s vision and Americans complaining that it was too stagy and inscrutable.

In highlights of the numerous other awards handed out during the closing days of the festival, the International Film Critics’ Association (FIPRESCI) prize was awarded to Claude Miller’ digitally-shot Of Women and Magic, while the Readers’ Prize of the Berliner Zeitung newspaper went to the American independent documentary Long Night’s Journey into Day, which last month won the Grand Jury Prize in that category at the Sundance Film Festival.

In addition to president Gong Li, the International Jury of the competition section at this year’s festival consisted of directors Andrzej Wajda from Poland and Walter Sales from Brazil; former Danish Film Institute international relations manager Lissy Bellaiche; Canadian media promoter Jean Lefebvre; French producer Jean-Louis Piel; German film critic Peter W. Jansen; and actresses Marisa Paredes (Spain) and Maria Schrader (Germany).

Specific dates are still being negotiated for the 2001 edition of the festival, which is expected to remain in its February slot.

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