Originally created 02/23/98

Brazilian `Central Station' wins at Berlin Film Festival



BERLIN -- A Brazilian film made for less than $3 million beat out a slew of big-budget Hollywood offerings to take the grand prize Sunday at the 48th annual Berlin Film Festival.

Actor Ben Kingsley, the jury president, announced the Golden Bear for "Central Station," an emotional road movie directed by Walter Salles.

"It's a life-enhancing film," Kingsley said in an interview afterward. The jury was moved, he said, by the film's "remarkable" handling of its two story lines: a boy's search for his father and a woman's search for identity.

Barry Levinson's political satire "Wag the Dog," starring Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman, won a Silver Bear and special jury prize.

Neal Jordan got a Silver Bear as best director for his adaptation of an Irish coming-of-age novel, "The Butcher Boy." Eamonn Owens got an honorable mention for his "astonishing work" as the drama's young lead.

Best actor awards went to Samuel L. Jackson for his role in Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown," and Fernanda Montenegro for her role in "Central Station."

Matt Damon was awarded a Silver Bear for outstanding achievement for co-writing and acting in "Good Will Hunting."

But other American studio entries were ignored, including "The Boxer" and "The Big Lebowski." Others, like "Great Expectations," and "The Gingerbread Man," were screened out of competition.

The festival lacked the glamour of past years, with few big name stars or directors showing up to promote their films. Catherine Deneuve did come briefly last week to accept an honorary Golden Bear for her life's work, and De Niro arrived on Saturday as the festival was winding down.

As usual, the festival was about business as much as art. Among the deals reportedly signed: Miramax picked up the North American distribution and remake rights to Caroline Link's "Beyond Silence," a German film nominated this month for an Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film.

Among the other awards:

Isabella Rossellini got an honorable mention for her "exceptional performance" as a Hasidic mother in "Left Luggage," a Dutch-Belgian Holocaust drama made by actor Jeroen Krabbe, who also got a special prize for his debut directing effort.

French director Alain Resnais, whose latest film "Same Old Song" (On connait la chanson) was in competition, was awarded a Silver Bear for his life's work, in addition to a get-well bouquet from festival organizers. He recently had an operation and was unable to attend the festival.