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BBC film wins the top prize at Berlin

A BBC film about two Afghan refugees seeking a new life in the West has seen off Hollywood to win the best film award at the Berlin International Film Festival.

In This World, by British director Michael Winterbottom, had a budget of £1.5m and was shot on a hand-held digital camera. But the movie, part-funded by the BBC, could become a cult success after triumphing in Berlin over costlier, grander films such as The Hours (£13m), starring Nicole Kidman, and Adaptation (£12m), starring Nicolas Cage.

In This World traces the journey of two teenage Afghan refugees who set their hearts on coming to London. Their overland odyssey takes them through baking deserts and snowy mountain as they rely on shady people-smugglers to get them to Britain hidden in the back of trucks.

The film stars two young Afghans who were picked from among a million refugees at the Peshawar camp in Pakistan. One later claimed asylum in Britain.

The film was scheduled to have a limited release in art house cinemas next month. However, the makers hope its success will result in it being distributed more widely. Two years ago, Kandahar, an Iranian film, became a surprise hit with its dramatisation of the real-life attempted journey into Afghanistan of a young Afghan-Canadian woman trying to find a childhood friend living in Kabul.

In This World was half-funded by the BBC with the rest coming from the Film Consortium, a British film company. David Thompson, head of BBC Films, said that at a time when asylum-seeking was topical, the film offered "an extraordinary insight" into the reality behind the headlines.

"This is a fantastic result for a truly remarkable piece of film-making and a tribute to Michael Winterbottom's skill as a director," he said.