The first film ever made in Xhosa, a tonal language marked by click sounds unrepresentable by the Roman alphabet, is
now the first African film to recieve the top prize
Roland Emmerick and his six-member jury (including actress Franka Potente and fashion mogul Nino Cerruti) have awarded the Golden Bear to U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, a Cape Town-set adaptation of Georges Bizet's opera Carmen, directed by Marc Dornford-May and starring Pauline Malefane. The film came out of nowhere to win the top prize, besting buzz-builders such as The Sun and Sophie Scholl - The Final Days, both of which dealt with WWII, and the suicide-bomber pic Paradise Now. The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to the Chinese film Peacock.
The jury awarded two Silver Bears for acting, one to Sophie Scholl's Julia Jentsch, and the other to Lou Taylor Pucci for his work in Mike Mills' Thumbsucker. Paradise Now took the Blue Angel award for best European film.
Much of the press surrounding this year's Berlinale has focused on director Dieter Kosslick's enthusiastic injection of star power, as well as the festival's increased viability as a place to do business. Interesting, then, that the Golden Bear goes to a film that could not be farther over on the other side of the spectrum.
The Berlinale home page has the full list of winners, plus pictures from the various ceremonies.