Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof’s “There Is No Evil,” a drama about the impact of capital punishment on society and the human condition, won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival on Saturday.
The seven-person festival jury, headed by Jeremy Irons, spread the prizes far and wide, with no single filmmaker dominating the awards.
American writer-director Eliza Hittman won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize for “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” a drama about teen pregnancy, while the Silver Bear for best director went to South Korea’s Hong Sang Soo for his Seoul-set drama “The Woman Who Ran.”
Rasoulof, who is unable to leave Iran due to a travel ban, faces a one-year prison sentence for “spreading propaganda.” The filmmaker released a statement on Friday expressing his sorrow at missing the premiere of “There Is No Evil”: “I am sorry that I will not be able to come to Berlin to watch the film alongside the audience; however, the right to choose between being present or absent at the festival is simply not mine. Imposing such restrictions very clearly exposes the intolerant and despotic nature of the Iranian government.”
While accepting the award, “There Is No Evil” producer Kaveh Farnam commented on the fact that the film had resonated so much in Berlin, adding: “The story reminds us that there are no walls in this world that can stop the power of imagination, the power of ideas, belief and love.”
Silver Bears for best actress and actor went to Germany’s Paula Beer for her role in Christian Petzold’s Berlin-set love story “Undine” and Italy’s Elio Germano for Giorgio Diritti’s “Hidden Away,” a portrait of artist Antonio Ligabue.
Italian siblings Fabio and Damiano D’Innocenzo won the Silver Bear for best screenplay for “Bad Tales,” the Rome-set drama they also directed that follows several families over the course of a fateful summer.
The Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution went to cinematographer Jürgen Jürges for his work on Ilya Khrzhanovskiy and Jekaterina Oertel’s Russian-language “Dau. Natasha,” while the newly minted Silver Bear 70th Berlinale went to “Delete History” by Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern.
The Silver Bear 70th Berlinale replaced the Alfred Bauer Prize following revelations earlier this year that the award’s namesake and the Berlinale’s first director was much more closely affiliated with the Nazi Party than previously known.
This year marked the beginning of a new era for the festival under the new leadership team of artistic director Carlo Chatrian and executive director Mariette Rissenbeek. One of Chatrian’s main changes to the official section was the introduction of the Encounters section this year. The sidebar’s jury awarded the Encounters Award for best film to the U.S.-Swedish-Japanese-U.K. co-production “The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin)” by C.W. Winter and Anders Edström.
Austrian helmer Sandra Wollner’s sci-fi drama “The Trouble With Being Born” took the Encounters Special Jury Prize and Cristi Puiu’s “Malmkrog” won the section’s best director prize. An Encounters special mention went to “Isabella,” by Argentinean helmer Matias Piñeiro.
Cambodian director Rithy Panh’s “Irradiated,” about people who have survived the irradiation of war, picked up the fest’s documentary award.
Winning the First Feature Award was Colombian director Camilo Restrepo’s Encounters screener “Los conductos,” which is about a man on the run from a cult and trying to take his fate back into his own hands.
A First Feature Award special mention went to Melanie Waelde’s German drama “Naked Animals,” likewise an Encounters title, which is about five young people living in a rural town.
Among the prizes presented in the Berlinale’s other sections ahead of the main awards ceremony was the Panorama Audience Award for the best feature, which went to Srdan Golubović’s Serbian drama “Father,” about a man fighting against social services for his children. The Panorama Dokumente award went to David France’s “Welcome to Chechnya,” about activists who join forces in the face of the systematic persecution of the LGBTQI community carried out by Chechen authorities.
In Perspektive Deutsches Kino, Janna Ji Wonders won the Compass Perspektive Award for her documentary “Walchensee Forever,” a generational look at the women in her family and the Summer of Love. Natalija Yefimkina took the Heiner Carow Prize for her documentary, “Garage People,” about communities in Russia’s inhospitable far north.
The Generation 14plus Youth Jury awarded the Crystal Bear for best film to Atiq Rahimi’s “Our Lady of the Nile,” a 1973-set drama about the students of an elite Catholic school, and a special mention to Rubika Shah’s U.K. music documentary “White Riot.”
The Generation 14plus International Jury awarded its Grand Prix, endowed with €7,500 ($8,271), to Brazilian helmer Caru Alves de Souza’s “My Name Is Baghdad,” about a freedom-loving 17-year-old girl living in São Paulo, with a special mention for Nobuhiro Suwa’s “Voices in the Wind,” about a woman in Japan who travels to her home town where her family perished in the catastrophic 2011 tsunami.
In the lower-age Generation Kplus sidebar, the Children’s Jury awarded the Crystal Bear to Alexandre Rockwell’s U.S. film “Sweet Thing,” with special mentions to John Sheedy’s Australian pic “H Is for Happiness.”
The Generation Kplus International Jury presented its Grand Prix, likewise endowed with €7,500, to Samuel Kishi Leopo’s Mexican drama “The Wolves,” with special mentions to Maïmouna Doucouré’s French film “Cuties” and Sol Berruezo Pichon-Rivière’s Argentinean work “Mamá, mamá, mama.”
The winning films were among some 340 that unspooled in all of the festival’s various sections this year. With approximately half a million admissions and more than 300,000 tickets sold, the Berlinale is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world.
The start of this year’s Berlinale was marred by tragedy following a shooting in the western German city of Hanau that left 11 dead. A minute of silence was held for the victims during the opening night’s proceedings.
The festival also faced some unavoidable problems, not least of which was the palpable anxiety over the looming Coronavirus threat, which ensured hand sanitizer supplies were quickly depleted in drugstores near the Potsdamer Platz festival center.
On Thursday, ahead of the Berlinale Gala Special premiere of Johannes Naber’s originally titled “Curveball,” inspired by the true story of how the work of the German intelligence service led to the Iraq War, the festival announced, with nor further elaboration, that the film would screen untitled due to an interim injunction related to a title dispute.
See the full list of winners below.
Golden Bear for Best Film: “There Is No Evil,” Mohammad Rasoulof
Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize: “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” Eliza Hittman
Silver Bear for Best Director: Hong Sang Soo, “The Woman Who Ran”
Silver Bear for Best Actress: Paula Beer, “Undine”
Silver Bear for Best Actor: Elio Germano, “Hidden Away”
Silver Bear for Best Screenplay: “Bad Tales,” the D’Innocenzo Brothers
Silver Bear 70th Berlinale: “Delete History,” Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern
Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution, Costume or Set Design: “Dau. Natasha,” Jürgen Jürges
Berlinale Glashütte Original – Documentary Prize: “Irradiated,” Rithy Panh
Best First Feature: “Los conductos,” Camilo Restrepo
Golden Bear for Best Short Film: “T,” Keisha Rae Witherspoon
Silver Bear for Short Film Jury Prize: “Filipiñana,” Rafael Manuel
Audi Short Film Award: “Genius Loci,” Adrien Mérigeau