Haru Kuroki receives her Silver Bear.
Berlinale Haru Kuroki receives her Silver Bear.

Haru Kuroki, "The Little House"
At 23 years old, Japanese actress Haru Kuroki offers a touching, breakout performance as a maid working in Tokyo before and during World War II in Yôji Yamada's "The Little House." She clearly won over the hearts of James Schamus, Christoph Waltz, Greta Gerwig and company, as they and their fellow Berlinale jury members decided Kuroki would follow in the mighty footsteps of Paulina Garcia ("Gloria"), Sally Hawkins ("Happy-Go-Lucky") and the female cast of Oscar-winning Iranian film "A Separation" as the festival's Silver Bear winner for best actress. 

Benjamin Naishtat,  "History of Fear"
Buenos Aires is a haven for paranoia and confusion in Argentinian writer-director Benjamin Naishtat's mesmerizing debut "History of Fear," though its title is something of a misnomer. Rather than chronicling the timeline of the listless quality that characterizes Argentina's suburban class -- and, by extension, those around the world -- "History of Fear" hypnotically sets its gaze on the present. Borrowing the beats of a disaster movie without ever giving the invisible threat a name, Naishtat explores the tenuous constructs that allow a subset of the population to deny the harsher ingredients of the world beyond their safety zone -- until it's thrust right in front of them. Read Indiewire's review here.

Ivo Pietzcker in "Jack"
Ivo Pietzcker in "Jack"

Ivo Pietzcker, "Jack"
Berlin offered a very strong batch of performances from child actors, not least among them young Ivo Pietzcker in the well-received homegrown competition entry "Jack."  In the title role, Pietzcker portrays a 10 year old Berliner responsible both for himself and his little brother as their single mother works during the day and often goes out at night. That is until Jack is blamed for burning his little brother with hot water (even though it's not his fault) and social services puts him in a home -- only he quickly escapes and goes out on a quest through Berlin to find his mother. It's a lonely, poetic story from director Edward Berger that Pietzcker has no issue anchoring -- breaking our hearts in the process.

Tony Revolori, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Speaking of young actors, 17 year old Anaheim-native Tony Revolori follows "Moonrise Kingdom" stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in managing the ultimate dream of a feature film debut: co-starring in a Wes Anderson movie. In "The Grand Budapest Hotel" -- which opened the Berlinale to raves -- Revolori plays Zero Moustafa (or "Lobby Boy"), a role that placed him within an epic Andersonian cast including Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldbum. But Revolori more than holds his own, and when "Budapest Hotel" hits US theaters in March, there will be more than a few folks talking about him.