By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire February 14, 2009 at 6:40AM
Presented tonight in Germany, the winners of the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival capped the 59th Berlinale. Honors were particularly strong for films from South America, with Claudia Llosa's "La teta asustada" (The Milk of Sorrow) from Peru winning the Golden Bear, the top prize at this year's festival. Adrian Biniez's Uruguay-set "Gigante" won three awards.
In an emotional moment capping the Berlinale, Peruvian filmmaker Claudia Llosa accepted the Golden Bear for best feature at the awards ceremony from festival head Dieter Kosslick and jury president Tilda Swinton for “The Milk of Sorrow” (La Teta Asustada). The film is the personal story that recalls a dark period in the South American country’s history when an estimated 70,000 people were murdered between 1980 and 2000.
Fausta (Magaly Solier) is ill with a disease contracted from her mother’s breast milk. The sickness is not biological, however, it’s a condition that soley affects women in Peru who were abused or raped during the years of persecution. Although the era has ended, Fausta is nevertheless a living reminder of this time and her “sickness” is a fear that has robbed her of her soul. When Fausta’s mother dies, she is forced to confont her fear and reveals the lengths to which she is willing to stare down her paranoia. In order to keep unwelcome intruders from entering her body, she has inserted a potato into her vagina as a kind of “antibacterial defence shield.” Her mother’s death, however, unleashes a series of events that alter her path dramatically and sets her on a path to freedom.
“I want to thank my mother and all women,” said Llosa on stage in Spanish at the Berlinale Palast Saturday evening fighting back tears. “This [award] is for Peru – this is for our country.”
The jury this year was lead by actress Swinton, who served as its president, while the jurors were filmmaker Isabel Coixet, filmmaker Gaston Kabore, author Henning Mankell, artist and opera director Christoph Schlingensief, filmmaker Wayne Wang, and chef Alice Waters.
Taking home three prizes, including the Silver Bear, the Alfred Bauer prize (shared with Maren Ade's "Alle Anderen") and best first feature. Biniez’s “Gigante” revolves around one lonely man’s personal obsession. Jara (Horacio Camandule) works the graveyard shift monitoring security cameras at a suburban Montevideo supermarket. To pass the time, Jara watches videos, does crossword puzzles and plays music. His attention, however, shifts when on the screen he notices a supermarket cleaner, Julia (Leonor Svarcas). He spends nearly every hour watching her work day after day. Eventually, Jara even begins following her outside of the market, eyeing her daily routine – going to the cinema, the beach and even meeting another man. Gradually, his life in centered on Julia’s movements. One day, rumors circle at work that layoffs are imminent and soon some are let go including Julia. Jara now must confront whether he will drop his obsession or reveal his suppressed feelings for Julia.
[Brian Brooks contributed to this article.]
The complete list of jury prize winners follows, including a list of some other award winners:
Golden Bear: "La teta asustada" (The Milk Of Sorrow), directed by Claudia Llosa
Silver Bear - The Jury Grand Prize (shared): "Gigante," directed by Adrian Biniez and "Alle Anderen" (Everyone else), directed by Maren Ade
Silver Bear - Best Director: Asghar Farhadi for "Darbareye Elly" (About Elly)
Silver Bear - Best Actress: Birgit Minichmayr in "Alle Anderen" (Everyone else), directed by Maren Ade
Silver Bear - Best Actor: Sotigui Kouyate in "London River," directed by Rachid Bouchareb
Silver Bear - Best Screenplay: "The Messenger," written by Oren Moverman and Alessandro Camon
Silver Bear - Artistic Contribution: "Katalin Varga" for its sound design by Gabor Erdely and Tamas Szekely
Alfred Bauer Prize (shared): "Gigante," directed by Adrian Biniez and "Tatarak" (Sweet Rush) by Andrzej Wajda
Best First Feature Award: "Gigante," directed by Adrian Biniez
Special Mention: "Flickan" directed by Fredrik Edfeldt
Other awards at the 2009 Berlinale:
Panorama Audience Award 2009
"The Yes Men Fix The World," directed by: Mike Bonanno, Andy Bichlbaum, Kurt Engfehr
2nd place: "Welcome," directed by: Philippe Lioret
3rd place: "Der Knochenmann," directed by: Wolfgang Murnberger
Crystal Bear for the Best Feature Film: "My Suicide" by David Lee Miller
Special Mention: "Mary and Max" by Adam Elliot
Crystal Bear for the Best Short Film: "Aphrodite’s Farm" by Adam Strange
Special Mention: "Slavar" by David Aronowitsch and Hanna Heilborn
Perspektive Deutsches Kino Dialogue in Perspective Prize: "Gitti," directed by Anna Deutsch
Competition: "La teta asustada" (The Milk Of Sorrow), directed by Claudia Llosa
Panorama: "Nord" (North), directed by Rune Denstad Langlo
Forum: "Ai no mukidashi" (Love Exposure), directed by Sono Sion
Feature film: "Rabioso sol, rabioso cielo" (Raging Sun, Raging Sky), directed by Julián Hernández
Best Essay: "Fig Trees," directed by John Greyson
Short film: "A Horse Is Not A Metaphor," directed by Barbara Hammer
Berlinale Shorts 2009
Golden Bear: "Please Say Something," directed by David O' Reilly