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Herr Bachmann und seine Klasse (Mr. Bachmann and His Class), a heartwarming documentary about an unorthodox teacher and his sixth-grade class, most of whom come from immigrant families, has won the first-ever audience award at the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival.
Directed by Maria Speth, Herr Bachmann was the favorite film of the nearly 8,500 Berlin audience members who voted, picking the top title of the 15 movies in the Berlin competition this year.
The audience award was introduced for the Berlinale Summer Special, an outdoor, in-person, festival held June 9-20 in the German capital to screen the highlights of the 2021 Berlinale, which was held online-only in March.
Maria Schrader’s I’m Your Man, a sci-fi romantic comedy starring Dan Stevens and Maren Eggert, took second place in the audience voting, with the third-highest number of votes going to Iranian drama Ballad of a White Cow by Behtash Sanaeeha and Maryam Moghaddam.
The 2021 Panorama Audience Award, picked from films screening in Berlin’s main sidebar section, went to The Last Forest from director Luiz Bolognesi, which documents the Indigenous community of the Yanomami and depicts their threatened natural environment in the Amazon rainforest. Eliane Raheb’s Miguel’s War took second prize with Monika Treut’s LGBTQ historical documentary Genderation in third.
The audience awards will be handed out at a pair of ceremonies Sunday night in Berlin.
Berlin’s Summer Special has been an overwhelming success, helped by the warm, sunny weather in the German capital and the relaxation of strict COVID-19 lockdown measures in Germany over the past few months. Organizers insist the Berlinale will return to its regular winter slot next year but there is talk of keeping the summer special in some form, to highlight the festival’s best films.
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