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Berlin 2012: Jake Gyllenhaal and Fellow Jurors Jump to Work With Mike Leigh

Power Lunch: Jake Gyllenhaal
Elizabetta Villa/Getty Images

This year's panel seems united in their excitement, screening the work of their peers and debating with their droll president.

BERLIN — The eight-strong Berlin International Film Festival jury, watched over carefully by British filmmaker Mike Leigh, is this year united by one common factor: They want to have fun.

The panel, from actor Jake Gyllenhaal to Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (whose Golden Bear-winning A Separation is in the running for this year's foreign-language Oscar) to French auteur Francois Ozon, all agreed they were expecting much humor and lively discussion in deciding this year's winners.

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Much of that expectation is due to the infectious charm of Berlin Film Festival director Dieter Kosslick.

One after the other, jury members told tales of Kosslick approaching them about sitting on the jury, all the while imbuing the onerous task of judging filmmaking peers and actors with levity.

For Gyllenhaal, whose humorous impression of Kosslick's jolly German delivery took a news conference by storm, there was no hesitation in accepting the invitation.

"I was incredibly excited to be asked because I am a big fan of Mike Leigh," he said. "I loved his films when I was a young boy. Being in a room with a number of artists and just talking about other work, I consider it a privilege and honor to be part of it."

Dutch photographer, designer and filmmaker Anton Corbijn referred to being on the jury as "attending my very own film school."

Algerian author Boualem Sansal , who won the Frankfurt Book Fair's Peace Prize in October, spoke of how it was important for "a man of letters" to think about the visual medium and see if he could bring his understanding of words to the film experience.

Charlotte Gainsbourg, noting it was "too early to speak in English," mused in French that having just had a baby, it was the first time in nine months she has found herself in a cinema watching films.

The jury also includes German singer and actress Barbara Sukowa, who garnered a giggle when explaining her inclusion on the jury.

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"When you get older as an actress and people think you don't work as much anymore, you do seem to get asked a lot to do jury duty. If it was paid work, I could have made a healthy living traveling the word and being a jury person," Sukowa said. "But honestly, without sounding like a brown-noser, when I was told Mike [Leigh] was [jury] president, I had to do it."

For his part, Leigh protected and cajoled his fellow jurors, deflecting contentious questions deftly, all with his trademark droll humor.

"Speaking on behalf of my comrades if I am allowed," he said, "I would suggest that it would be impossible for any of us on this jury to have serious considerations on any of the films or performances without taking into consideration the political and social or environmental context as much as the cinematic and craft considerations because, frankly, we're all too intelligent not to."

But Leigh and others noted what a privilege it was to be able to take time out from their careers to look at other work.

Said Ozon: "I like making films, one after the other. But it happened I wasn't doing one when asked to be on the jury here, and I am a big fan of Mike [Leigh] so I didn't hesitate for a moment."

Leigh added with a wink: "They're a very well-behaved jury, if I may say so."