Berlin: 'Otac,' 'Welcome to Chechnya' Win Panorama Audience Awards

© Maja Medic:Film House Baš Čelik
'Otac'

Srdan Golubovic's Serbian drama 'Otac' follows a father fighting to win back his children from social services, while David France's documentary 'Welcome to Chechnya' explores LGBTQI* persecution by the Chechen authorities.

A touching tale of a father fighting bureaucracy to win back his family and a documentary about the real-life fight for LGBTQI rights in Chechnya have won this year's Audience Awards for the Panorama sidebar at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival. 

Srdan Golubovic's Otac (Father) took the top prize for best feature film screening in the section. It stars Goran Bogdan as Nikola, a day laborer and father of two who is ordered to give up his children to social services after poverty and hunger drive his wife to commit a desperate act. Nikola subsequently sets off on foot to lodge a complaint to authorities in the capital, Belgrade. Otac also took the Panorama best film prize awarded by the independent ecumenical jury, which comes with $2,750 in prize money.

David France's Welcome to Chechnya, which won the Panorama audience prize for best documentary in the section, follows activists who risk their own lives to save members of the LGBTQI community, who face systematic persecution in the Russian republic. The film also won the Amnesty International film prize, awarded by the human rights organization, which comes with $5,500 in prize money. 

The Panorama Audience Awards, which have been handed out since 1999, are voted on by the Berlin cinema-going public. This year, some 20,000 votes were cast and evaluated. The sidebar screened a total of 36 feature films from 30 production countries this year, with 13 of them in Panorama's documentary section.

The prizes are awarded by the Berlinale's Panorama section together with local radio network radioeins and public broadcaster rbb television. The official Panorama Audience Award ceremony will take place Sunday, the official "audience day" which closes this year's Berlinale, at 5 p.m. local time at the CinemaxX 7 theater in Berlin. The award-winning feature film will be shown immediately after the ceremony, while the winner of the Panorama Dokumente will be shown at 8 p.m., also at the CinemaxX 7.

The runners-up in the feature film category were Futur Drei (No Hard Feelings) from German director Faraz Shariat and Hope from Swedish filmmaker Maria Sodahl; Saudi Runaway from director Susanne Regina Meures and Petite fille (Little Girl) from French filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz were the second- and third-place winners, respectively, in the documentary category.