Berlinale jury seeks global perspective

Africa food crisis, economic crisis on members' minds

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BERLIN -- The food crisis in Africa, globalization and the worldwide financial turmoil dominated thoughts as the Berlinale competition jury and its president Tilda Swinton gathered Thursday morning.

The jury was flung questions at a subdued press conference to introduce the seven members ahead of the evening's opening-night gala of Tom Tykwer's "The International."

Swedish-born novelist Henning Mankell, who spends one half of his year in Mozambique and the other in his native Sweden, told the press pack in no uncertain terms that the Western media was at fault for the crisis in Africa.

"I blame the mainstream media of the Western world for telling false tales of Africa. Until the day comes when Africans can tell their own stories, we will live in a false world," he said.

Mankell also pointed to the fact that the world had just spent an estimated $3 trillion on trying to sort out the global financial crisis when there is still a need for $2 billion to sort out the food crisis in Africa.

But the potential for more people gaining access to filmmaking to help tell their stories also was raised.

Hong Kong filmmaker Wayne Wang, who said his last film endeavor was shown for free on You Tube, said there was hope in the shape of the small digital cameras now available for less than $100 a pop.

Said Wang: "The question is how to get the output more accessible. This little video camera, which is no bigger than an instamatic, is so important because it can let people in Africa or China to tell their own stories."

Wang said the problem is providing access to the technology.

Harsh words were spoken about the impact of the global financial crisis also. Swinton said she is not "as interested in talking about that crisis as say, the one in Gaza." Swinton described the obsession with the financial crisis as a kind of hypnosis.

U.S. chef Alice Waters told the audience she would like to be described as a eco-gastronome who loves film. "It's (film) such a powerful way to communicate," Waters said.

Spanish director Isabel Coixet said it was her duty as a filmmaker who tries to get her output in festivals to do jury duty. "I am really eager to enjoy and hate films but most of all be passionate about them," Coixet said.

For her part, Swinton described festival jury duty as "a game." "It's not the Olympics," she said. "You can't prove that anything ran faster or jumped further. It's a subjective business."

Also on the jury is Burkina Faso filmmaker Gaston Kabore, German multihyphenate Christoph Schlingensief and Spanish writer-director Isabel Coixet.
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