Berlin jury to look past its 'borders'

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The Berlinale jury took center stage Thursday as president Paul Schrader promised 10 days of mostly congenial debate over who will win this year's Golden Bear.

"I was on the Berlinale jury 20 years ago, in 1987, and that was the last real Cold War jury, with people standing up and screaming at each other," he said. "It was great fun actually, but I don't expect that sort of drama this time around."

But politics quickly reared its head in the form of a question to Hong Kong producer and juror Nansur Shi about Li Yu's "Lost in Beijing." The Berlin fate of the drama remains uncertain, with reports that a censored version of the movie will unspool in competition and an uncut version will screen in the European Film Market.

Shi said China's system of film censorship "doesn't work anymore," arguing that Beijing's policy of either rejecting a film or approving it "for everyone in China from 8 to 80" doesn't reflect the country's everyday realities.

"It is important that China find a system to put in place that works better for filmmakers," she said.

Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass, who was featured in Hany Abu-Assad's suicide-bomber drama "Paradise Now," hinted that the politics of competition films also could play a role in determining the Berlin winners.

"I think politics is part of everyday life, and I don't think you can separate politics from the way we live," Abbass said.

Handicappers sizing up this year's competition for possible Golden Bear winners have noted that the 2007 jury leans heavily on acting talent. Four of the seven jurors are actors: Abbass, Willem Dafoe, Germany's Mario Adorf and Mexico's Gael Garcia Bernal. This could be good news for titles with strong performances at their core, including Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in the festival opener "La vie en rose" or Dennis Haysbert as Nelson Mandela in Bille August's "Goodbye Bafana."

But whatever their political or cultural biases going in, the Berlinale jurors promised to judge all competition films equally, without prejudice. "We all try to have our roots," Bernal said. "But we try not to have any borders."
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