'Is there a point, or are you just brushing up on your small talk?' It's a line from the Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing - but it could easily be applied to film festivals these days. Some movies are unabashed frivolous enter-tainment, while others purport to tell audiences something serious about the state of the world. The latter is in vogue. The idea has gained credence that films can be used to inform viewers about the state of the world and act as a supplement to the information they receive from TV news. If US television anchors can't tell audiences how it really is, some filmmakers have decided that they'll have to do it. Which brings us to this month's 56th Berlin International Film Festival, where the films that really matter all have something to say. Among this year's highlights are Golden Bear winner Grbavica, a story of life in Sarajevo after the war, and V for Vendetta, an entertaining sci-fi celebration of British anarchism. In spite of the prevalent mood of seriousness, no one was prepared for the shock and awe of Michael Winterbottom's The Road to Guantanamo. This film about the prison camp hit hard. Co-directed by Mat Whitecross, it's a dramatisation of the story of three young British Muslims who were imprisoned, beaten, and tortured in the camp. Winterbottom's masterstroke is to use two of the prisoners to narrate the story. The film is an example of the way that dramatic cinema can be used to inform viewers of facts they might not get from the news media. The story of the so-called Tipton Three is well-known in Britain, but less so elsewhere. Four young British Pakistani men from the town of Tipton went to Pakistan because one of them was getting married there. The invasion of Afghanistan started soon after, and the four - who were Muslims, but not devout, decided, on a whim, to visit Afghanistan. One died from a bomb and the other three were handed over to US officials. Although there was no proof that they were involved with al-Qaeda, they were taken to Guantanamo, where, they say, they were routinely beaten and interrogated. The US claimed the three were in a video proving they'd attended a rally with al-Qaeda members. The youths could prove they were in Britain at the time, but they were still held for 21/2 years before being released. Some critics say Winter-bottom should have given the US administration's version of events for balance. But he says the idea was to tell the story through the eyes of three Muslims. The presence of two of them at the Berlin press conference - one looking gaunt and dazed - lent an unusual gravity to the proceedings. Winterbottom insists that his film is neither pro-Islam nor anti-US. It's simply an attempt to expose injustices at the camp. The two Muslims say they hope the film will help get the camp shut down. Many critics thought The Road to Guantanamo was a shoo-in for the Golden Bear top prize. But that went to Grbavica, while Winterbottom took the best director award. Grbavica, which is named after a suburb of Sarajevo where Serbs committed many atrocities against Bosnians, is about a mother who tries to keep a dark secret from her daughter. It's a careful film that details how those in former Yugoslavia are coming to terms with their horrific recent past. The mother's husband disappeared during the war, and is presumed to be buried in a mass grave. The daughter gains kudos at school by claiming that her father died fighting the Serbs. But during a row, the mother reveals to the daughter the truth about her father. On a different level, V for Vendetta successfully dressed up good politics as comic-book entertainment. That's no mean achievement. Based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore - who decided to have nothing to do with the film - it's the story of a lone anarchist trying to bring down a fascist British government. In spite of its entertainment value, the movie makes the point that people tend to know more about what's good for them than their governments do. Such was the desire for political discussion at Berlin this year that some critics even tried to foist allegorical status on Robert Altman's charming country and western story, A Prairie Home Companion. The movie, which is light but enjoyable, features Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as country singers on a radio show that's on the verge of being closed. Something was made of the fact that the show, which is popular in the US, represented a view of a better America. Altman demurred, but says all films inadvertently reflect the politics of the time in which they're made. The other big US film at Berlin was also political. Syriana, starring George Clooney, is an analysis of what's being called petro-politics. An attack on US policies in the Middle East, Syriana has been shown in America. The Road to Guantanamo has yet to find an American distributor.