Schrader: Berlinale jury should be congenial

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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. It was great fun actually, but I don't expect that sort of drama this time around," Schrader joked.

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

Shi said China's system of film censorship "doesn't work anymore" arguing 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.

Hiam Abbass, who featured in Hany Abu-Assad's suicide bomber drama "Paradise Now," hinted that the politics of Competition films could also play a role it determining the Berlin Bear 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 heavy on acting talent. Four of the seven jurors are actors: Abbass, Willem Dafoe, Germany's Mario Adorf and Mexican star Gael Garcia Bernal. This could be good news for titles with strong performances at their core -- like Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in Festival opener "La Vie en Rose" or Dennis Haysbert as Nelson Mandela in Billie August's "Goodbye Bafana."

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

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