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“In this day and age, when I look at the kinds of films being made, I realize it’s a courageous act to be someone who is interested in shining a light on the better parts of humanity,” the Shawshank Redemption star said when paying homage to fellow director Isabel Coixet, who introduced Robbins to the Kino International audience before he received the prestigious Berlinale Camera prize. “It’s so easy to be cynical, it’s so easy to be nihilistic.”
The actor, who starred in Coixet’s 2005 drama The Secret Life of Words, recounted bringing Dead Man Walking to the 1996 Berlinale during his acceptance speech. The death-row drama won several awards in Berlin that year, including a Silver Bear for lead actor Sean Penn.
“We were this scrappy little movie that barely got made,” Robbins recalled, as Hollywood studios turned thumbs down to financing a movie about the death penalty. “It ended up making a $100 million in the United States. So we proved them wrong.”
Robbins also recalled collaborating with Sister Helen Prejean, whose book inspired the original Dead Men Walking movie, on a stage play about the death penalty. “We tend to hide away behind this issue, we don’t want to talk about it. We carry it out in the middle of the night, in the place where no one can see it, we don’t get to know who’s dying, and it’s all secret. This play has been able to bring it out into the light for discussion,” he said of the play as it does the college circuit in the U.S.
“Once they go consider it and go through the journey, it’s a lot more difficult to support it when you realize the humanity behind all the stories we are not telling,” he said.
Robbins also earned the Oscar and Golden Globe supporting actor honors for Mystic River in 2003.
The Berlinale Camera has been awarded since 1986 and is modeled on a real camera with 128 individual components.
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