Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Berlin Film Festival Diaries
Report #6 (February 23)

by Marcia Pally

A toast, on this last day of the Berlinale, to American naivete. At home in New York, I am more often faced with the damage done by U.S. naivete--of domestic and international policies born of too much energy and appetite, of will that accomplishes too much to notice what it fells in the process. But in this year's Berlinale, one can see the other sort of American naiveté that yields optimism.

Oliver Stone, for instance, talked at his press conference about the failure of American historians to investigate covert U.S. activities, begun after WWII, which directed the murder of heads of state, the destabilization of countries, and the removal of four U.S. leaders (JFK, RFK, Dr. King and Nixon). The failure of historians is the usual, dismaying sort of American naivete, but the idea that murderous covert activities began only after WWII is the optimistic kind. It suggests that deceit and murder are new, not endemic, and so correctable. what is the assumption of Stone's movies if not that his exposure of evil may bring its demise?

This too is the assumption of Tim Robbins, director of "Dead Man Walking", and Sister Helen Prejean who wrote the book on which the film is based. At their press conference, both emphasized the clandestine nature of state executions and the importance of providing "a window into the event." If people see the killings, Prejean and Robbins argued, they will stop them. Prejean and Robbins are not deterred by the history of hangings, floggings, guillotines, and burnings, which provided the "family entertainment" for most of man's history. They retain optimism and faith in mankind's progress enough to argue for compassion. This is the sweet sort of American naivete, which from time to time indeed permits compassion. On the other hand, as Stephen Frears's Mary Reilly (a retelling of the Jekyll and Hyde story) points out, too much faith in "progress" can kill ya'. Commenting on Pat Buchanan's recent win in the New Hampshire primary, Robbins said Buchanan wasn't electable "because there are too many good people in America." That's the kind of optimism that'll kill ya'.

On this last day of the Berlinale, the festival announces its official awards. To those who are not satisfied, I offer mine. They have the advantage of obeying none of the festival rules; of being scrupulously apolitical as far as race, ethnicity, nation of origin, sex, sexual preference, and cigarette preference are concerned; and of being completely political as far as bribes are concerned.

A combination Golden Bear Award for Best Picture and Best
Director is tied among Bo Widerberg -- All That Is Fair, Richard
Loncraine -- Richard III, Terry Gilliam -- 12 Monkeys, Oliver Stone -- Nixon
and Tim Robbins - Dead Man walking.

Best Actor -- Ian McKellen (Richard III), Sean Penn (Dead Man
walking), Anthony Hopkins (Nixon)

Best Actress -- Paris (Paris was a woman-Panorama)

Best Woman -- From Dusk Till Dawn (so what if she's a vampire)

Best cinematography -- Restoration

Most cinematography -- Nixon

Best Costumes Design is divided into subcategories:

Best Hats -- Sense and Sensibility, Best High Heels -- Mahjong,
Best Corset (out of respect for tradition, this award always goes to the French) -- Mon Homme

Most Costume Design -- Restoration

Best Fashion Tip -- Mary Reilly for the suggestion that no gentleman's couture is complete without ironed shoelaces

The Annual Jaye Davidson (Crying Game) Award for Best Actor as Actress -- the entire oeuvre of Rosa von Praunheim

Best Award -- The Teddys, which goes to the best gay and lesbian films at each Berlinale and which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

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