5 Big Surprises From Berlin

 Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

Unusually cold temperatures weren't the only surprise awaiting those traveling to the Berlin International Film Festival and market, which ended Feb. 18. Between an especially solid festival lineup and unexpectedly brisk dealmaking, those congregating at the Ritz-Carlton bar and lobby (including Harvey Weinstein, who was gracious enough to take his phone calls outside) lauded the trend toward smaller, more intimate dinners at such hotspots as Grill Royal instead of schmoozy parties.

1. A Deluge of Deals

Who knew that the European Film Market could rival AFM and Cannes? A logjam of commercial projects, combined with strong box office for recent market titles (including The Woman in Black), saw a number of sellouts, including Sierra/Affinity's Kate Hudson action pic Everly and horror title WER, from The Devil Inside team. "It was clearly a very busy Berlin," says Sierra/Affinity CEO Nick Meyer. And despite the euro woes, markets including the U.K. and Germany paid big prices.

2. A Surprise Winner

Caesar Must Die wasn't on anyone's hot list before the docudrama from octogenarian directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani won the festival's top prize Feb. 18. But the film -- about a real-life staging of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in a maximum security prison -- won over jury president Mike Leigh and handed a marketing coup to Adopt Films, which picked it up for U.S. release.

3. Dieter Can Dance

When Berlin festival director Dieter Kosslick joined Indian star Shah Rukh Khan onstage at the premiere of the Bollywood actioner Don 2, the actor cajoled him into an impromptu dance number. While Kosslick couldn't match Khan's handstands and other aerobatics, he held his own. 

4. Euros Love Jayne

Billy Bob Thornton's slice of '60s Americana, Jayne Mansfield's Car, left U.S. critics cold. But Euro scribes -- especially the Germans -- adored it, many calling the Robert Duvall-John Hurt starrer the "best American film of the year."

5. Haters Go home

The usual critics sharpened their knives ahead of this year's Berlinale, planning to cut into Kosslick for being (take your pick) too conservative, artsy, mainstream or just too boring. Ten days later, the sharpest tongues had fallen silent. This was the best Berlin in years.

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