Spacey, Moore tackle financial crisis at Berlin film fest

11th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

A thriller set at the start of the global financial crisis starring Kevin Spacey and Demi Moore launched the race for the Golden Bear top prize at the Berlin film festival Friday.

Dubbed the independent "Wall Street", "Margin Call" is the debut feature by US director JC Chandor and 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 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, other 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 placed the blame at the feet at the bankers 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," he 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 bring together 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.

"Margin Call" is one of 16 international contenders vying for the Golden Bear, which a jury led by Italian-American actress and director Isabella Rossellini will present on February 19.

First-time Argentinian director Paula Markovitch will join the running later Friday with "The Prize", a semi-autobiographical story about a girl's experiences at the time of the military junta's seizure of power in 1976.

Also in the running this year are Ralph Fiennes making his directorial debut with "Coriolanus", a contemporary reimagining of the Shakespeare tragedy about a Roman general who mounts a rebellion against the empire.

US director Joshua Marston, whose drug-mule drama "Maria Full of Grace" picked up two prizes at the 2004 Berlinale, as the event is known, will screen "The Forgiveness of Blood" about an Albanian family locked in a blood feud.

France's Michel Ocelot will unveil "Tales of the Night", a fairy tale in 3D based on his silhouette animation television special -- one of three art-house pictures at the festival that will burst through the third dimension.

German director Ulrich Koehler looks at culture shock among aid workers in Cameroon in "Sleeping Sickness" while Hungarian master Bela Tarr will present "The Turin Horse" about a traumatic episode in the life of Friedrich Nietzsche.

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

© 2011 AFP

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