War, terrorism and humanitarian catastrophes are sad realities in many parts of the world. For the most part, our perception of this world is shaped by the media and by pictures. Within this context, film has a particularly important role to play.
This is why each year Cinema for Peace invites movie makers from all over the world to a gala night in Berlin, creating a platform for peace and tolerance. During the course of the gala, an award is presented to an important director whose film has served as a particular example - in 2002 this was István Szábo and in 2003 it was Danis Tanovic for his Oscar-winning Bosnian anti-war satire "No Mans Land".
Cinema for Peace works together with the United Nation´s children´s organisation UNICEF as well as, for the first time in 2004, the American Foundation for Aids Research amfAR. The organizers aim to make a contribution towards creating tolerance, understanding and peace - a contribution from the world of media and film that will last for more than just this one day. The gala ranks among the most exclusive international events of its kind.
This year, academy award winner Liza Minelli joined movie legend Christopher Lee to host Cinema for Peace 2004. The gala took place on February 9 in the historic Konzerthaus. Celebrities from around the globe attended the social climax of the Berlin International Film Festival. Christina Rau, wife of Germany's Federal President Johannes Rau, acted as patroness.
In the beginning a choir sang Beethoven's "Ode to Joy"; Christopher Lee and Mahatma Gandhi's granddaughter, Ela Gandhi, kindled the World Peace Flame.
The approximately 600 invited international and German guests attended a brilliant evening. The festivities revolved around the presentation of the "Diamond Cinema for Peace Award." This year two jeweled trophies were presented: One went to filmmaker Lars von Trier whose life's work reflects the principles of Cinema for Peace - peace, humanity and fostering understanding among nations -, and conveys them to a large audience. Amongst his films are "Dogville" and "Dancer in the Dark". The award for this years' best film - "Country of My Skull" - was received by its director John Boorman.
Prominent guests contributed to the charity by endowing it with special gifts. These often very personal prizes were auctioned off during the gala. Principal sponsor Volkswagen contributed a vehicle to the auction. Such endorsements guarantee the organizers aim, especially in conjunction with the extraordinary program composed by director Jaka Bizilj (Star Entertainment) to correspond with the gala's political and social causes. Apart of Volkswagen, the event was supported by several other institutions and companies, such as Coca Cola, Eurostar Diamond Traders, DTC, Christie's, and the GandhiServe Foundation.
Liza Minelli swept back the years with a well-received reprise of "Welcome to the cabaret,'' the song from the movie "Cabaret", set mostly in Berlin, that won her an Oscar in 1972. It was a pricey do with 52 guests paying 1,000 Euro (US$1,270) each to hear her croon. Add to that the auction of a Vivienne Westwood dress, a VW Beetle car signed by Matt Damon ...
This years Cinema for Peace raised nearly 300,000 Euro. The money goes to a UNICEF program aiming to assist children in war-beset regions, and for AIDS research by amfAR.
The official program of Cinema for Peace 2004 (PDF)