'Nader and Simin' Wins Berlin Film Festival's Top Prize (Berlin)

Courtesty of Berlinale 2011

BERLIN –The Berlin Film Festival's red carpet could well have been painted green, the Iranian color of freedom, as Nader and Simin, A Separation from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi won the 2011 Golden Bear for best film. The ensemble cast of Nader and Simin took both the best actor and best actress Silver Bears, beating out higher-profile competition including Coriolanus stars Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave, and Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons, who appeared in J.C. Chandor's financial meltdown drama Margin Call.

Farhadi's drama traces the breakup of a Iranian family set against the political tensions in Tehran. While not overtly political, Nader and Simin is starkly critical of conditions in Iran, notably the country's huge class divide. It was widely tipped to win Berlin's top prize, not least because of the current upheaval in the Middle East.

Many will see the decision by Berlin's jury, led by president Isabella Rossellini, as sending a political message to Tehran. The Berlin Festival has openly condemned Iran's conviction of director Jafar Panahi who was scheduled to be a member of this year's jury but is instead sitting in jail serving a six year sentence and a 20 year work ban for making a film without government approval. 

Director Farhadi dedicated the Golden Bear to his imprisoned colleague Panahi, "This goes out to you. I hope next time you will be standing here," Farhadi said.

But whatever its political credentials, Nader and Simin was also the stand-out critical hit of this year's Berlin Film Festival. (Read our review of the film here.)

Given the picture's timeliness and with the extra clout of the Golden Bear, international buyers will likely be scrambling to secure rights for world sales group Memento Films International. Expect Nader and Simin to also turn up in next year's foreign language Oscar category.

Nader and Simin was Berlin's big winner but it wasn't the only one. The Turin Horse, a stark, minimalistic drama from the great Hungary director Bela Tarr, took the Silver Bear Jury Grand Prix.

Ulrich Kohler won the best director Silver Bear for the drama Sleeping Sickness and U.S. director Joshua Marston and writer Andamion Murataj took the best screenplay Silver Bear for The Forgiveness of Blood, a coming-of-age story set in the world of family blood feuds in Albania. The Silver Bear for extraordinary artistic achievement was shared by the cinematography and production designer of Argentinian drama The Prize from director Paula Markovitch.

The Alfred Bauer Award, named after the founder of the Berlin Film Festival, went to German director Andreas Veiel for his terrorist biopic If Not Us, Who?

Click here or below for a complete list of winners


61st Berlin International Film Festival

Golden Bear: Nader And Simin, A Separation
Silver Bear, Jury Grand Prix: The Turin Horse
Silver Bear, Best Director: Ulrich Kohler for Sleeping Sickness
Silver Bear, Best Actor: the cast of Nader And Simin, A Separation
Silver Bear, Best Actress: the cast of Nader And Simin, A Separation
Silver Bear, Best Screenplay: Joshua Marston and Andamion Murataj, The Forgiveness of Blood
Silver Bear, Extraordinary Artistic Achievement: Cinematographer Wojciech Staron and production designer Barbara Enriquez, The Prize
Alfred Bauer Prize: Andreas Veiel for If Not Us, Who?