In year of #MeToo, women win big at Berlin filmfest

Director, screenwriter, editor and producer Adina Pintilie poses with her Golden Bear award for Best Film ‘Touch Me Not’ at the news conference after the awards ceremony at the 68th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 24, 2018.(Reuters)
Updated 25 February 2018
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In year of #MeToo, women win big at Berlin filmfest

BERLIN: “Touch Me Not,” an experimental Romanian docudrama exploring intimacy and the fears around it, won the Golden Bear top prize at the Berlin film festival Saturday in a strong year for female filmmakers and women’s stories.
First-time director Adina Pintilie, 38, clutching the trophy after her surprise triumph, said the movie was intended to “invite you, the viewer, to dialogue” with its graphic portrayals of nudity and disability.
US filmmaker Wes Anderson clinched the best director Silver Bear prize for “Isle of Dogs,” an animated allegory with political bite and an early favorite among the 19 contenders.
Actor Bill Murray, who voices one of the pack of pooches in Anderson’s first animated feature since 2009’s “Fantastic Mr.Fox,” picked up the award for Anderson.
“I never thought that I would go to work as a dog and come home with a bear,” he quipped.
“Ich bin ein Berliner Hund (I am a Berlin dog),” he added, riffing on John F. Kennedy’s famous speech.
The runner-up Grand Jury Prize went to Polish social satire “Mug” by Malgorzata Szumowska, the second winner among four women in competition.
It tells the story of a man who is shunned by his community when he has a face transplant after a horrific accident, in a plot examining tensions over identity and exclusion in eastern Europe.
Szumowska said the film “reflected problems not only in my own country” but around the world.
“I am so happy that I am a female director, yeah!” she added.
France’s Anthony Bajon won best actor for an emotionally raw portrayal of a young man struggling to beat his drug addiction at a Catholic Alpine retreat in Cedric Kahn’s “The Prayer.”
“Museum” from Mexico, starring Gael Garcia Bernal in the true story of a daring 1985 heist by two students at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, bagged the best screenplay award.
Austria’s “The Waldheim Waltz” by Ruth Beckermann about the scandal surrounding the Nazi past of former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim claimed the best documentary prize.
Despite critical accolades, wrenching drama “U-July 22” about the mass murder of 69 mainly teenage victims on the Norwegian island of Utoya by far-right militant Anders Behring Breivik in 2011, left the ceremony empty-handed.
In a year in which the #MeToo movement cast a long shadow over the Berlinale, with several topical films screened and a raft of industry initiatives launched to combat sexual exploitation and discrimination, women proved to be the big winners.
“Touch Me Not,” which also picked up the best first feature prize, shows Pintilie on screen interviewing a range of protagonists about their intimate lives.
Film industry bible Variety called the movie “divisive” but praised its refreshing approach to standards of beauty and “normal” sexuality.
“If anyone is shocked by ‘Touch Me Not’ they’re not getting the point,” its reviewer said.
Pintilie, the sixth woman to the Berlinale in its 68-year history, admitted that the film might make many viewers uncomfortable but called it a “necessary” provocation.
“The fear of the other is growing and there is so much conflict all over the world,” she told reporters.
“The film is an invitation to empathy and to embrace otherness and to reconsider everything that you know.”
Last year, a tender Hungarian love story set in a slaughterhouse, “On Body and Soul” by Ildiko Enyedi, captured the top prize and is now nominated for a best foreign language film Oscar.


Ancient musical instruments get an airing in Athens

Updated 21 June 2018
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Ancient musical instruments get an airing in Athens

  • The phorminx, the kitharis, the krotala and the aulos — string and wind instruments reconstructed by musical group Lyravlos — echoed among marble statues in Athens’s National Archaeological Museum.
  • Music was an integral part of almost every aspect of ancient Greek society, from religious, to social to athletic events.

ATHENS: Hymns sung to the Greek gods thousands of years ago resonated from ancient musical instruments in Athens on Thursday, transporting a transfixed audience to antiquity.
The phorminx, the kitharis, the krotala and the aulos — string and wind instruments reconstructed by musical group Lyravlos — echoed among marble statues in Athens’s National Archaeological Museum as part of World Music Day celebrations.
A family of musicians, Lyravlos have recreated exact replicas of the ancient instruments from natural materials including animal shells, bones, hides and horns.
Music was an integral part of almost every aspect of ancient Greek society, from religious, to social to athletic events. Today only some 60 written scores of ancient Greek music have survived, said Lyravlos member Michael Stefos.
Stefos said they interpret them as best they can, relying on the accuracy of their recreated instruments.
“Joking aside, ancient CDs have never been found,” he said.
Their performance included a hymn to the god Apollo, pieces played at the musical festival of the ancient Pythian Games in Delphi and during wine-laden rituals to the god Dionysus.
Michael’s father Panayiotis Stefos, who heads the group, travels to museums at home and abroad studying ancient Greek antiquities and texts in order to recreate the instruments.
“Usually each instrument has a different sound. It is not something you can make on a computer, it will not be a carbon copy,” said Stefos.
The difference with modern day instruments?
“If someone holds it in their arms and starts playing, after a few minutes they don’t want to let it go, because it vibrates and pulsates with your body,” he said.
French tourist Helene Piaget, who watched the performance, said it was “inspiring.”
“One sees them on statues, on reliefs, and you can’t imagine what they might sound like,” she said.
World Music Day is an annual celebration that takes place on the summer solstice.