Spacey, Moore tackle financial crisis at Berlin fest

11th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

A financial crisis thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Demi Moore and a powerful drama set under the Argentine junta launched the race for the Golden Bear prize at the Berlin film festival Friday.

"Margin Call" and "The Prize", both debut features, are among 16 contenders vying for the Golden Bear, which a jury led by Italian-American actress and director Isabella Rossellini will present on February 19.

Dubbed the independent "Wall Street", "Margin Call" by US film-maker JC Chandor captures a frantic 24 hours at a major investment bank in 2008 bearing a strong resemblance to the doomed Lehman Brothers.

Spacey plays a seasoned stockbroker who has weathered several previous storms on the markets, alongside Moore as a ruthless risk analyst, Jeremy Irons as the bank's well-heeled chief and Paul Bettany as its head trader.

In the crucible of capitalism's biggest meltdown in terms of absolute financial losses, the characters have to determine where their loyalties lie -- with the bank, investors or their own self interest.

Spacey told reporters in Berlin he thought the financial crisis had been marked by widespread hypocrisy, in which consumers laid the blame at the feet of bankers in general without recognising their own role in the system.

"There was a time where a banker was the most horrible and greedy person on the face of the earth," the Oscar winner said after the screening.

"These are just regular people doing regular jobs who aren't making gazillions of dollars and who are just following orders. I think it's very easy sometimes to put everybody in the same wheelbarrow."

Irons said he believed banking itself was amoral and it was the responsibility of the rest of society to rein it in.

"We need morality, we have to care about the fact that people are getting their houses taken away from them, that people are borrowing beyond their dreams," he said.

"We live with limited resources in this globe and we have to find a way to share those resources ... and not allow consumerism to go rampant."

Chandor, who to date was best known for television documentaries and commercials, said he was thrilled to recruit an all-star cast for what he called his "tragedy".

"Bringing these guys in and having them bring your words to life is obviously a dream come true," he said.

First-time Argentine director Paula Markovitch also joined the running Friday with "The Prize", a semi-autobiographical story about a seven-year-old girl's experiences after the military junta seized power in 1976.

A successful screenwriter, Markovitch said she had to struggle to find financing for the picture, and ended up with backing from Mexico and as far afield as Poland, France and Germany.

The picture tells the story of young Ceci, in hiding with her mother in a remote beach-side town as the regime begins a wave of "disappearances".

The child is told to keep her background a secret from her new classmates, but when the military sponsors an essay contest she inadvertently puts her family in grave danger.

The film features an extraordinary cast of amateur child actors led by Paula Galinelli Hertzog.

"They were the main actors and they needed to continue to act like children, natural and chaotic," Markovitch told reporters.

"We had to give them a lot of freedom so they would not lose that naturalness, to tell them the story while sparing them details about the past. They still felt the tension and a sense of danger on the set but we also had to protect them."

The 61st annual event, one of the world's top film festivals, opened Thursday with an out-of-competition screening of the Oscar-nominated remake of the classic Western "True Grit" by Joel and Ethan Coen.

© 2011 AFP

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