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Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
25 February 2000


Film about Argentina's protesting grandmothers wins ecumenical
award
ENI-00-0068

By Edmund Doogue
Geneva, 25 February (ENI)--A documentary film about one of the
most astonishing episodes of kidnap, murder, orphans and protest
in modern history - Botin de Guerra (Spoils of War) - has won a
major award and prize money of 5000 Deutschmark (USD 2500) from
the Ecumenical Jury at the Berlin Film Festival.

The festival, held from 9 to 15 February this year, is one of
Europe's main film festivals. Films from around the world are
submitted to the festival's international jury. At the same time
the Ecumenical Jury examines the best of those submitted and
makes three awards based on film quality and ethics.

Botin de Guerra, by Argentinian director David Blaustein, is a
documentary about the continuing struggle of the grandmothers of
the Plaza de Mayo, in Argentina, to find their grandchildren,
born in detention or kidnapped during the Argentine military
dictatorship (1976-83).

The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo are named after a square in
Buenos Aires located in front of the main government building. In
1977, a year after a military dictatorship came to power in
Argentina, mothers gathered in the square to demand information
about their sons and daughters who had been abducted by the
security forces. Following the example of the mothers,
grandmothers also came to the square demanding information about
children who had been kidnapped with their parents or who had
been born in clandestine detention centres. Some of these
children were given for adoption to members of the security
forces. Some were given to families who knew nothing of the
orphans' past history. Others were abandoned or left in
institutions.

Estella Barnes de Carlotto, president of the Grandmothers of
Plaza de Mayo, told a gathering at St Matthaus Church in Berlin
during this month's film festival that the group had now tracked
down 68 children who had disappeared during the dictatorship.

The 10-member Ecumenical Jury said that in the film about the
"negative experience" of the grandmothers, their "positive
courage" was "vividly described. The search for truth and
identity is bringing about healing experiences between
generations. This film could sow the seeds of reconciliation
where this has not yet become possible."

Robin Gurney, a member of the Ecumenical Jury in Berlin and
communications secretary for the Conference of European Churches,
told ENI in an interview in his office in Geneva: "The struggle
of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo is a unique action in a
unique situation. Nowhere else in the world has such an
organisation emerged because nowhere else in the world have there
been kidnappings and births in detention on such a large scale."
Gurney added that the film, though a documentary with a lot of
"talking heads", was a "moving" depiction of the dramatic events
that took place in Argentina.

He added that Botin de Guerra also mentioned the ecumenical
movement, which had given strong support to the grandmothers.
However, he pointed out that the Ecumenical Jury had not selected
the film for that reason. The jury's criteria for giving awards
to films are:
? High artistic quality;
? The dramatisation of values that could be related to the
Gospel message;
? The potential to challenge the audience to respond to social
and justice issues;
? Reflection of local culture;
? Wide impact.

Botin de Guerra won the award in the Ecumenical Jury's Panorama
category, which includes documentaries and other films not in the
main competition for the Berlin Film Festival.

The Ecumenical Jury's award in the main competition was won by
Wo de fu Qin mu qin (The Road Home), by renowned Chinese director
Zhang Yimou, whose other films include Raise the Red Lantern.

The Ecumenical Jury highly praised the film, saying: "Zhang
Yimou gives us a history of Chinese life and political change
over four decades, placing his narrative in a rural landscape,
which is earthy and harsh but also intensely beautiful. Past and
present are linked by courtship and a funeral, which together
embody the value and power of love."

Robin Gurney told ENI the film was "beautiful. I don't think
I've ever seen photography quite like it." Wo de fu Qin mu qin
also won a silver bear - the second highest award given by the
Berlin Film Festival's international jury.

(The Ecumenical Jury's award for the main competition does not
include a cash prize as all the films in the main competition are
made with relatively generous budgets.)

The third award made by the Ecumenical Jury was for the Dutch
film De Grote Vakantie (The long holiday), by director Johan van
der Keuken. The film tells the true story of the director's
struggle to carry on after he is diagnosed as suffering from
cancer. De Grote Vakantie won the Ecumenical Jury's prize in the
Forum category at the Berlin Film Festival, which is reserved for
young film-makers. The Ecumenical Jury also gives 5000 DM for its
choice in this category.

Gurney also told ENI that church participation in the Berlin
Film Festival had taken a step forward thanks to the Protestant
St Matthaus Church in Berlin's Potsdamer Platz which had,
throughout the festival, hosted lunchtime church services, as
well as discussions about the films being shown, led by directors
and members of the Ecumenical Jury. The annual Ecumenical
Reception, given by local church heads for the Berlin Film
Festival, was also held for the first time in the St Matthaus
Church. It was hosted by Bishop Dr Wolfgang Huber, of the
Evangelical Church of Berlin Brandenburg and Archbishop Georg
Cardinal Sterzinsky, of the Roman Catholic Church. For the first
time the head of Berlin's Jewish community was also present and
addressed the gathering.

The Berlin Ecumenical Jury's 10 members represent Interfilm, a
Protestant and Orthodox film organisation established in Paris in
1955 and OCIC, a Roman Catholic film organisation.