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Mohammed Rasoulof’s Iranian drama There Is No Evil, a powerful rebuke to the brutal and repressive regime in Tehran, won the Golden Bear for best film at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival.
There Is No Evil is the third Iranian film to take Berlin’s top prize in the past decade, following Jafar Panahi’s Taxi in 2015 and Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation in 2011.
Rasoulof was prevented from attending the Berlinale, as he is banned from leaving Iran. He is also banned from working as a director. He shot There Is No Evil entirely in secret.
The film is a bracing portrayal of life in modern-day Iran. In four separate stories, Rasoulof targets the government policy of mass execution of dissidents.
A jury, headed by British actor Jeremy Irons, selected the Gold and Silver Bear winners.
The runner-up jury prize went to Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always, which premiered at Sundance. Focus Features will release the film March 13 in the U.S.
South Korean director Hong Sang-soo took home the best directing Silver Bear with his minimalist drama The Woman Who Ran, a seemingly simple tale of a woman visiting old friends but who may have ulterior motives. The powerful feature is a reminder of of the breadth and variety of Korean cinema beyond Parasite and Bong Joon Ho.
Germany’s Paula Beer earned the best actress Silver Bear for her portrayal of the titular character in Christian Petzold’s Undine, a love story that is also a modern-day retelling of a myth about a water nymph who murders her unfaithful lover.
Best actor honors went to Elio Germano, who gave a star-making performance as the Naïve artist Antonio Ligabue in Giorgio Diritti’s impressionistic biopic Hidden Away. Critics praised Germano’s visceral evocation of the artist, who struggled with abject poverty and severe mental health challenges but created some of most powerful paintings of the early 20th century.
A rare funny movie in Berlin competition, Delete History, from French writer-directors Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern, received the special anniversary Silver Bear in honor of the 70th Berlinale. In the comedy-drama, three down-and-out protagonists from a working-class suburb get tangled up in a social media web.
Best screenplay honors went to Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo, Italy’s answer to the Coen brothers, for their dark comedy Bad Tales.
Jürgen Jürges took home the Silver Bear for outstanding artistic achievement for his lensing of the Russian experimental film DAU. Natascha.
The GWFF award for best first film went to the Colombian drama Los conductos from director Camilo Restrepo and producers Helen Olive, Martin Bertier and Felipe Guerrero, which screened in the Encounters section. There also was a special mention for Naked Animals from German first-timer Melanie Waelde and producer Anja Wedell.
The Berlinale Documentary Film Prize was awarded to Rithy Panh for Irradiated, a visual onslaught of footage of bombings, torture and massacre overlaid with readings of French poetry. Special mention went to Notes From the Underworld from directors Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel
This year, the Berlinale also awarded prizes for its inaugural Encounters section, a sidebar meant to “support new voices in cinema and to give more room to diverse narrative and documentary forms in the official program.”
The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) from directors C.W. Winter and Anders Edström won the prize for best film in the Encounters section. The Trouble With Being Born from Sandra Wollner received the special prize of the jury, with the best directing honor going to Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu for Malmkrog. The Encounters jury also gave a special mention to Mati?as Pineiro for Isabella.
With Saturday’s awards ceremony, the 70th Berlinale crossed the finish line. But it was a rough race for inaugural festival heads artistic director Carlo Chatrian and executive director Mariette Rissenbeek, who took over from Berlin’s long-running festival director Dieter Kosslick for this year’s event. The pair had to weather a series of crises, from the controversy over previous comments on the subject of same-sex marriage, abortion and sexual abuse made by competition jury president Jeremy Irons (the British actor addressed those in his opening statements on day one of the festival) to new revelations about the Nazi past of the Berlinale’s first festival director, Alfred Bauer, to a horrific mass shooting attack near Frankfurt on the eve of the fest, which overshadowed Berlin’s opening night.
Then there is the coronavirus, in which the rapid spread of the disease led to a mass cancellation of Chinese industry attendants. The festival-adjacent European Film Market estimated that between 100-120 attendees cancelled their trips, giving the virus as the reason, though the actual number of cancellations may have been higher. There were significantly fewer Chinese buyers in Berlin this year, although overall traffic at the market headquarters in the Martin-Gropius Bau and at the hotels around Potsdamer Platz appeared robust.
Below is a full list of winners of the 70th Berlin International Film Festival.
Golden Bear for Best Film: There Is No Evil by Mohammed Rasoulof
Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize: Never Rarely Sometimes Always by Eliza Hittman
Silver Bear for Best Director: Hong Sang-soo for The Woman Who Ran
Silver Bear for Best Actress: Paula Beer for Undine
Silver Bear for Best Actor: Elio Germano for Hidden Away
Silver Bear for Best Screenplay: Damiano D’Innocenzo, Fabio D’Innocenzo for Bad Tales
Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution: Jürgen Jürges for cinematography on DAU. Natascha
Silver Bear – 70th Berlinale: Delete History by Benoit Delepine, Gustave Kervern
Golden Bear for Short Film: T by Keisha Rae Witherspoon
Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement: Helen Mirren
Best First Feature Award: Naked Animals by Melanie Waelde
Best Film: The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) by C.W. Winter, Anders Edström
Jury Prize: The Trouble With Being Born by Sandra Wollner
Best Director: Cristi Puiu for Malmkrog (Special mention for Isabella from Mati?as Pineiro)
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