Newbie helmers make Berlinale splash

Up-and-comers including Claudia Llosa take top awards

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BERLIN -- Youth and energy triumphed over experience and political correctness as the jury of the 59th Berlinale, headed by actress Tilda Swinton, chose up-and-coming directors for its top prizes.

Peruvian director Claudia Llosa won the Golden Bear for "The Milk of Sorrow," only her second film, while the Silver Bear Jury Prize, Berlin's runner-up award, went to "Gigante," from first-timer Adrian Biniez and "Everyone Else," the sophomore effort of German director Maren Ade.

The best script Silver Bear also went to a debut feature -- "The Messenger," starring Woody Harrelson, written by director Oren Moverman and Alessandro Camon.

Even Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who won the best director prize for "About Elly," is hardly an old hand, having made just four films since his 2003 debut "Dancing in the Dust."

The only real veterans rewarded in Berlin Saturday night were Sotigui Kouyate, whose performance in "London River" took the best actor Silver Bear, and Polish cinema legend Andrzej Wajda, whose "Tatarak" shared the Alfred Bauer prize with "Gigante."

The choice of "Gigante" and "Everyone Else" also showed cinema can trump politics, even in Berlin, considered the most political of the big film festivals. Biniez's debut follows a lonely supermarket security guard and his growing attachment -- via CCTV -- with the shop's nighttime cleaner. "Everyone Else" is a delicately observed drama that traces the breakdown of a relationship. Personal, not political, strife is front-and-center.

While "The Milk of Sorrow" has a strong political undercurrent -- the legacy of the Peruvian government's decades-long war with Shining Path guerillas -- Llosa's film is not as overtly political as many of the competition titles in Berlin this year, films such as Richard Bouchareb's "London River" and "Storm" from Hans-Christian Schmid.

Swinton said the jury were unanimous in the decisions and, judging by the reception of this year's winners, it seems even Berlin's curmudgeonly critics agree.

"The Milk of Sorrow" also won the prestigious FIPRESCI international critics prize and "Gigante" beat out debut titles in all other Berlinale sections to take the best first feature award. Competition films that split critics and audiences this year -- such as Lukas Moodysson's "Mammoth" or "Ricky" from Francois Ozon -- went home empty-handed.

It remains to be seen whether the many critics of festival director Dieter Kosslick and this year's lineup will now change their tune.