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Asian films win big as Chinese thriller takes top Berlin prize

It’s a significant win after 25 years since the Chinese film Red Sorghum won the Golden Bear in 1988

Mumbai |
February 28, 2014 1:00:53 am
A  still from Bai Ri Yan Huo (Black Coal, Thin Ice) A still from Bai Ri Yan Huo (Black Coal, Thin Ice)

Asian films were big winners at the recently concluded Berlin International Film Festival, 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.
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.” 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 realise 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.

Move over Hollywood

“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 parlour, 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. Director Diao, who won awards for Night Train in 2007, said he had ignored advice that “Cold films don’t sell”. He said he wanted to portray the warmth of emotions beneath to help people “feel less alone with our dark side”.
The Berlin festival, officially called the Berlinale, is one of the oldest and most prestigious film showcases in the world. The festival showed more than 400 films overall, including a series of movies on cooking and food and an unfinished documentary by veteran filmmaker Martin Scorsese about the political and literary journal The New York Review of Books.


Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show debut draws 11.3 million viewers

Jimmy Fallon’s debut as the host of NBC’s Tonight Show drew 11.3 million viewers, network NBC said on Tuesday, making it the second most-watched episode of the late-night talk show in the past five years. Fallon’s premiere on NBC’s flagship late-night programme failed to top the farewell episodes of Jay Leno on February 6 and in 2009, but eclipsed the audience that tuned in to watch Conan O’Brien begin his short, ill-fated stint as host.

Fallon, 39, welcomed actor Will Smith and Irish band U2 as his first official guests, and the show also featured appearances from the likes of comedian Tina Fey, actresses Lindsay Lohan and Sarah Jessica Parker, and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Actor Robert De Niro, boxer Mike Tyson, pop star Lady Gaga and Comedy Central rival Stephen Colbert also welcomed Fallon to the show, which returned to its roots in New York after more than 40 years in Burbank, California.
O’Brien’s first episode as Tonight Show host drew 9.2 million, but his ratings quickly dropped off and Leno was reinstalled as host eight months later. Fallon’s ascendance to one of the most visible and long-running roles in U.S. television marked Comcast Corp-owned NBC’s second attempt to transition the Tonight Show to the younger, under-50 demographic most coveted by advertisers while keeping its grip atop the ratings.

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