Berlin: The competition wrapped up at the Berlin film festival Friday ahead of a gala weekend awards ceremony led by jury president Meryl Streep.
Here are some of the highlights from the 11-day event, which presented more than 400 movies from around the world.
Refugees on screen and off
Streep will award the Golden Bear top prize Saturday and the odds-on favourite is Italian documentary Fire at Sea, which tackles the crisis by focusing on the tiny Mediterranean island of Lampedusa on the front lines of the influx. The daily Berliner Zeitung called the film "devastating" in its resonance at a moment when the drama threatens to rip Europe apart.
Europe's biggest migration crisis since World War II dominated discussion at the festival, traditionally the most politically minded of Europe's big cinema showcases. George Clooney, whose Hail, Caesar! opened the event, even popped in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel with his wife Amal "to talk about how best we can help".
The other hot topic preoccupying celebrities was diversity, or a lack of it, in the movie business.
Three-time Oscar winner Streep touched off a Twitter storm on day one when asked about her ability to judge movies from unfamiliar regions. Her response: "We're all Africans really", struck many as tone deaf heading into this month's Academy Awards, whose all-white nominations for the acting prizes sparked a boycott.
She later called, at a rare master class for acting students, for making film studio boardrooms less white and male. "If the decisions are only made by one group of people whose tastes will decide which kinds of films are made, then only certain kinds of films will be made."
African-American actor-director Don Cheadle told the festival that he would never have never acquired the necessary financing for his new Miles Davis biopic without a white co-star, Ewan McGregor.
And Spike Lee argued that making movies more representative was simply good business as whites are forecast to become a minority in the United States by mid-century. "So even if you don't believe in diversity, I know you believe in the all-mighty dollar."
Women on the verge
Critics swooned over French icon Isabelle Huppert's dignified turn in "as a philosophy teacher whose marriage falls apart just as her elderly mother dies. An instant-classic scene sees her, in a frustrated huff, grab a giant blue plastic Ikea bag to dispose of a flashy bouquet from her cheating husband, drawing a spontaneous cheer from the audience.
One of Denmark's biggest stars, Trine Dyrholm, delivers an indelible portrait of a wronged woman in The Commune, Thomas Vinterberg's semi-autobiographical take on his 1970s childhood. The camera holds tight on Dyrholm's anguished face as she must vote on whether her professor husband's young new lover may move into the commune with them.
Daring Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz pulled off the unexpected by winning over cinemagoers to his historical epic A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery, weighing in at eight and a half hours.
Even after the cinematic marathon with just one hour-long break, movie fanatics had the strength to cry "bravo" for the audacious picture.
Germany's 24 Weeks left few dry eyes in the audience in telling the story of a married couple who must decide whether to have a late-term abortion when they learn their child will be born severely disabled.
Tunisian movie Hedi, the first North African movie in 20 years to enter the race, also packed an emotional punch in profiling a young man heading toward a loveless arranged marriage.
Set in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, the movie portrays Hedi's own personal revolution when he meets a beguiling older woman and learns the heavy price freedom can exact.
Suits and mankinis
Colin Firth, who won plaudits for his portrayal of acclaimed 20th century literary editor Max Perkins in Genius, noted wryly it was "not the first time I've played a rather restrained man in a suit".
But the British actor said he was ready to branch out if given the chance.
"If someone wants me to wear a mankini in a film, I am available," he said, drawing a laugh from reporters. "If anybody wants to free me from restraint... I am ready to burst out of a cake."
Published Date: Feb 20, 2016 09:09 am | Updated Date: Feb 20, 2016 09:09 am