BERLIN "Child's Pose", a Romanian drama about a domineering mother using her social position to try to save her son from jail, won the Golden Bear for best picture at the Berlin film festival on Saturday.
The movie, directed by Calin Peter Netzer and starring Luminita Gheorghiu in the central role, had been among the favorites for the coveted prize, which extends the remarkable success of Romanian filmmakers on the European festival circuit.
The awards ceremony brought to a close the 11-day cinema showcase, where hundreds of movies were screened across Berlin and stars including Matt Damon, Nicolas Cage, Anne Hathaway, Jude Law and Catherine Deneuve walked the red carpet.
In "Child's Pose", Gheorghiu shines as the wealthy 60-year-old Cornelia, who attempts to buy off the poor family of a boy killed by her son in a road accident.
The veteran actress also appeared in Cristian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days", a grisly abortion drama that put Romanian cinema firmly on the international map when it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival in 2007.
"I'm still shell-shocked," Netzer told reporters after the ceremony. "I haven't quite woken up to this new reality. It will probably take a couple of days for it to sink in."
The big surprise on the night was the best actor award for Nazif Mujic, a Bosnian Roma who had to be convinced to play himself in "An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker" about his own experiences on the fringes of society.
The movie, a docu-drama directed by Danis Tanovic and made for 30,000 euros ($40,100), captured hearts in Berlin for its straightforward storytelling and moving account of the impoverished Mujic's desperate attempts to pay for his wife's emergency operation.
"FEELS LIKE NEIL ARMSTRONG"
Tanovic, an Oscar winner for his 2001 war movie "No Man's Land", read about the story in a local newspaper in 2011 and was so angry at Bosnian society's apparent lack of humanity that he determined to make a film about it.
"I think he (Mujic) feels like Neil Armstrong when he went to the moon, seriously," Tanovic said of his star. "And I really do hope it is going to change his life for the better."
Arguably the most popular winner at the 63rd Berlin film festival was Paulina Garcia, the Chilean actress whose portrayal in "Gloria" of a 58-year-old divorcee in Santiago was the highlight for many festival-goers and won her best actress.
Refusing to retire quietly into the background, Gloria drinks, smokes, parties and enjoys sex, all the while holding down a full time job and keeping in touch with her children.
The powerful older woman was a constant theme throughout the main competition of 19 films eligible for prizes, and Garcia was up against Gheorghiu and French actresses Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche for the acting Silver Bear.
Best director went to U.S. filmmaker David Gordon Green for his touching road movie "Prince Avalanche", in which Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch play a pair of misfits who go to work in a remote forest where they embark on a journey of self-discovery.
Iranian entry "Closed Curtain" picked up the best script prize for directors Kamboziya Partovi and Jafar Panahi. Panahi made the movie in secret in defiance of a 20-year filmmaking ban and was not allowed to travel to Berlin to collect his award.
"Tradition and culture remain, politicians come and go," Partovi told reporters after receiving the honor.
Kazakh cinematographer Aziz Zhambakiyev was honored for outstanding artistic achievement for his painterly work on "Harmony Lessons", set on the harsh steppes of Kazakhstan.
($1 = 0.7490 euros)
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)