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The most politically charged Berlin International Film Festival in recent years came to a head on Saturday night with the awards ceremony for the winners of the Gold and Silver Bears.
Gianfranco Rosi’s refugee documentary Fire at Sea won the Golden Bear for best film, beating out several other politically fueled dramas. The documentary looks at the island of Lampadusa in Italy where thousands of refugees have flooded.
Meryl Streep, who headed the seven-person Berlinale jury that chose this year’s winners, said of the Golden Bear-winning pic: “This is a film that commands our attention and demands action.”
In accepting the prize, Rosi said, “I dedicate this film to the people of Lampadusa.” Before the ceremony, the director noted that it was particularly poignant to be able to screen Fire at Sea in Berlin, a city “that tore down a wall between people.” Rosi told The Hollywood Reporter that Europe now is building up “new walls, new barriers to keep people out who are fleeing war and death. That is not the kind of Europe I want to be a part of.”
Current issues, including the migration crisis in Europe and the controversy over patrolling the U.S/Mexican border, have been among the themes that have dominated Berlin this year. Even George Clooney, who opened the festival with the feel-good Coen brothers’ film Hail, Caesar!, spent most of his visit talking about the refugee crisis. He and his wife, human-rights lawyer Amal Clooney, even met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the issue.
U.S. films were shut out of the awards for the 66th Berlin fest, with Jeff Nichols’ highly-praised Midnight Special and Alex Gibney’s shocking cyber-war documentary Zero Days both going unrecognized.
The acting awards went to a newcomer and an old pro. First-timer Majd Mastoura won best actor honors for his turn in Hedi, a touching love story set in modern-day Tunisia, the debut feature of director Mohamed Ben Attia; and Danish veteran Trine Dyrholm took the Silver Bear for best actress for her tour de force performance in Thomas Vinterberg’s The Commune, playing a successful career woman in 1970s Denmark whose life slowly unravels after she and her husband found a commune with their friends.
Receiving her award from Streep, Dyrholm acted the fan girl, saying what an honor it was to share the same stage with the three-time Oscar-winning actress.
Another Oscar winner, Bosnian director Danis Tanovic, took home the grand jury prize for Death in Sarajevo, an ensemble piece a la Robert Altman set entirely in a Sarajevo hotel.
The Alfred Bauer Prize, named after the festival’s founder, went to Filipino director Lav Diaz for A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery, a seven-hour marathon of a movie that required audiences to commit an entire day to view.
See the list of winners below.
Golden Bear for Best Film: Fire at Sea from Gianfranco Rosi
Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize: Death in Sarajevo from Danis Tanovic
Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize: A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery from Lav Diaz
Silver Bear for Best Director: Mia Hansen for Things to Come
Silver Bear for Best Actress: Trine Dyrholm for The Commune
Silver Bear for Best Actor: Majd Mastoura for Hedi
Silver Bear for Best Script: United States of Love from writer-director Tomasz Wasilewski
Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution: Crosscurrent from Mark Lee Ping-Bing
Best First Feature: Hedi from Mohamed Ben Attia
Golden Bear for Best Short Film: Balada De Um Batráquio from Leonor Teles
Silver Bear Jury Prize (Short Film): A Man Returned from Mahdi Fleifel
Audi Short Film Award: Anchorage Prohibited from Chiang Wei Liang
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