Berlin: 'God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya' Wins German Film Guild, Ecumenical Jury Prizes

God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunija Still 1 - Berlin International Film Festival- Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

A woman defies patriarchal society to take part in a men-only religious ceremony in the drama from Macedonian writer-director Teona Strugar Mitevska.

God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya, the fifth feature from Macedonian writer-director Teona Strugar Mitevska (How I Killed a Saint) has won two of the main independent juries prizes at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival, scooping best film awards from both the Ecumenical jury and the jury for the German Film Guild.

The feature, inspired by a real-life incident, follows a woman who defies her hometown's patriarchal traditions to take part in a traditionally men's only Epiphany Day ceremony.

The Ecumenical jury praised the film for it “daring portrayal of the transformation of a disempowered young woman into an outspoken defender of women’s rights.”

The Ecumenical jury awarded Rodd Rathjen's Buoyancy, a brutal yet realistic depiction of the situation for Cambodian forced laborers, its top prize for a film screening in Berlin's Panorama section. A special mention went to Hassan Fazili's documentary Midnight Traveler, which charts the exodus of the director and his family from Afghanistan to Europe, captured on mobile phones.

Nikolaus Geyrhalter's Earth, a look at human-made natural devastation, told through images of seven locations, including an open-cast mine in Hungary, the Canadian tar sands and a German salt mine used to store radioactive waste, took the Ecumenical prize for best film in Berlin's Forum section.

Another Forum documentary — Heimat Is a Space in Time — picked up the Caligari Film Prize from the art house cinemas association CICAE. In the film, director Thomas Heise uses documents from his personal archive, including letters, photographs and diary entries, to follow the story of four generations of his family from Vienna to East Berlin.

Other independent jury awards handed out this year included the Peace Film Prize for Eliza Capai's Your Turn, a look at disenfranchised and disenchanted youth in Brazil which also won the Amnesty International film award, presented by the German branch of Amnesty International.

The Heiner Carow Prize for the promotion of German cinematic arts went to the Annekatrin Hendel's documentary Beauty and Decay, a portrait of Sven Marquardt —a legendary bouncer at  Berlin techno club Berghain and an acclaimed art photographer.

System Crasher, Nora Fingscheidt’s debut drama, about an out-of-control nine-year-old, which won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize at the official Berlin awards ceremony Saturday night, also picked up the best film honor from readers of Berlin daily newspaper the Berliner Morgenpost. Readers of the competitor, Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper, picked Marius Olteanu's Romanian drama Monsters, a brutal look at the collapse of a relationship over 24 hours, as its favorite film in Berlin's Forum section.