Berlnale Camera honor to Meszaros


It's been more than 30 years since Hungarian director Marta Meszaros became the first woman to win Berlin's Golden Bear -- for her 1975 film "Adoption" -- and more than a decade since she last had a film here, but this year she knew ahead of time she would be honored.

Tuesday night at a gala presentation at the Palast, festival director Dieter Kosslick bestowed the Berlinale Camera on Meszaros, a special award to film personalities to whom the festival "feels especially attached."

Given every year since 1986 as a "way of expressing thanks," last night's recipients also included Italian journalist and documentary writer Gianni Mina and former Hollywood Reporter correspondent, cineaste and long-time Berlin resident, Ron Holloway and his actress wife Dorothea Moritz. Holloway "contributed to the diversification of the festival program" from the mid-1970s and Moritz has been a selector since 1988.

Meszaros, now 75, credits her Golden Bear with launching her career as a director internationally.

"The film became world-famous, I traveled throughout the world with it and more than 80 countries bought it," she said. "After the success of 'Adoption' my name started to sound familiar in the world. For me, the Golden Bear meant that in the following years none of my film plans were rejected, even though they did not like my films in Hungary too much."

Back then, the Berlinale was a very different festival: it was held in the then politically -- and physically -- divided city's western sector and largely boycotted by Communist countries.

Still, the festival provided a cultural bridge and Soviet filmmakers--– many of whom Meszaros knew as she had grown up in the Soviet Union and studied film in Moscow -- would come over from East Berlin each day to see films.

"Back then, the Berlinale was a festival, not a film market, which is what is has become today," said Meszaros, who flew in from Budapest with her family Monday. "Now, all the big festivals -- Cannes, Berlin -- are markets and there is absolutely another atmosphere. In the past it was very friendly; there was no separation between stars, filmmakers, directors, producers and the people. After a movie, everyone got together to talk about it," Meszaros said.

She recalls hanging out with directors whom have become the stuff of legend to a younger generation. She served on a jury with German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and once watched 10 hours of his epic 1980 "Berlin Alexanderplatz" when it screened at another festival. (Fassbinder aficionados have had a chance to see a new, remastered version of the 15-hour marathon at this year's Berlinale).

Even Cannes back then was all about cafes and people: "In the Cafe Bleu in Cannes all the people were there ... (Jean-Luc) Godard, (Jean) Renoir, (Francois) Truffaut, (Federic) Fellini, then it was something very normal, but today it is all about business and making money."

Meszaros feels that American money and Hollywood moviemaking values have too often influenced filmmaking today for the worst, although of course she acknowledges that movies do not get made without money.

Film from some of the emerging cinematographies like Iran, Iraq and India excite her, though she notes that Mexico's vibrancy is beginning to fall victim to Hollywood values.

Meszaros, who won a Silver Bear here in 1987 for "Diary for My Loves" and last had a film in official selection in 1994 with "Fetus," is still making movies.

Her last film, "The Unburied Man" (2004), was a tribute to Imre Nagy, the Hungarian prime minister murdered by the Soviets after they crushed the 1956 uprising. She is now in preproduction on "Hanna Wende," a contemporary story about the friendship between two women, and researching another female tale, the true story of the friendship between Hungarian social democrat Anna Ketly and Golda Meir, Israel's only female prime minister.