Israeli director Joseph Cedar won the best director award for 'Beaufort,' at the 57th annual international film festival in Berlin on Saturday evening. This is the first time an Israeli director has ever won the prize and Cedar was up against directors like Robert DeNiro and Steven Soderbergh.
"I wish for all of us that our leaders will be afraid of wars and find the courage to know how to end them," said Cedar after thanking the panel of judges for his win.
''It seems pretty obvious that we're against war and that war is horrible - hopefully there's something in my film that gives insight into a more specific nature of how absurd combat ... is,'' Cedar said.
Cedar with actor Oshri Cohen (Photo: AFP)
Cedar's film is based on the best-selling book 'If There is a Heaven' by Ron Leshem, who also participated in adapting the screenplay, and tells the story of a group of IDF soldiers several weeks before the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.
Cedar joins two other big Israeli winners this year – Dror Shaul's kibbutz coming-of-age film 'Sweet Mud', which won the Crystal Bear on Friday, and Eitan Fox's Tel Aviv-West Bank gay love story 'The Bubble', which took home second place at the Panorama awards.
"This is a thrilling and blessed moment, proof of Israeli cinema's new position in the world," said 'Beaufort' producers David Mendil and Dudi Zilber.
Director Wang Quan'an's 'Tuya's Marriage,' which follows the troubles of a young shepherdess in fast-changing rural China, won the top 'Golden Bear' award at the festival.
''A very beautiful dream has become reality for me here,'' director Wang said after receiving the Golden Bear statuette on Saturday. He said he believed the award ''will bring good fortune to Chinese cinema.''
The best actor award went to Argentina's Julio Chavez for his role in director Ariel Rotter's 'El Otro' ('The Other') as Juan, a man who decides to take on a new identity amid a crisis triggered by his wife's pregnancy and his father's illness.
Best actress was Germany's Nina Hoss for her role in 'Yella,' directed by Christian Petzold. Hoss plays the heroine of the film's title, a young woman who quits her job and broken marriage and moves from eastern Germany to the west, and is increasingly haunted by voices and sounds from the past.
On Saturday, the cast of Robert De Niro's 'The Good Shepherd' - which traces the origins of the CIA through the eyes of one of its earliest agents, played by Matt Damon - won the festival's award for an outstanding artistic contribution, but the movie missed out on the top prizes.
Other US entries - including Steven Soderbergh's 'The Good German' and Gregory Nava's 'Bordertown,'
starring Jennifer Lopez - came away empty-handed. So did a strong contingent of four films by French directors - including Olivier Dahan's 'La Vie en Rose' and Francois Ozon's English-language 'Angel.'
The award for best music went to Scottish director David Mackenzie for 'Hallam Foe' South Korean director Park Chan-wook's 'I'm A Cyborg, But That's OK' was honored as a work of particular innovation.
The Berlin festival, in its 57th edition this year, opened on Feb. 8 and ends Sunday.
Keren Natanzon and the Associated Press contributed to this report