"Are you crazy or what?! It's too much," was French filmmaker Nicolas Philibert's first reaction as he took the stage to pick up the Golden Bear, the top award of the Berlin International Film Festival, for his documentary "On the Adamant."
This film is "cinematic proof of the vital necessity of human expression," said jury president Kristen Stewart at the awards ceremony held on Saturday evening. Philibert, whose 2002 documentary "To Be and To Have" was an international commercial success, portrays in his latest work a psychiatric facility in Paris where patients express themselves through various creative outlets. "As we all know, the craziest people are not those we think they are," said Philibert, concluding his acceptance speech.
Three German films among Silver Bear winners
Along with the Berlinale's top award, various Silver Bear prizes were handed out in different categories. German director Christian Petzold received the second top prize of the night, the Silver Bear, Grand Jury Prize, for "Afire" ("Roter Himmel"), a film described by the jury as "a journey full of surprises, from comedy to tragedy." Meanwhile, the Silver Bear, Jury Prize, was awarded to Portuguese filmmaker Joao Canijo for "Bad Living."
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French veteran filmmaker Philippe Garrel won the Silver Bear for best director for his film "The Plough." The jury described the 74-year-old director as "the youngest, most joyful spirit we met." Garrel dedicated his award to his late French New Wave colleague, Jean-Luc Godard.
Acting newcomer Sofia Otero won the Silver Bear for best leading performance for her portrayal of a young trans girl in "20,000 Species of Bees" by Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren, while an Austrian trans actor, Thea Ehre, took the Silver Bear for best supporting performance for her role in romantic detective thriller "Till the End of the Night" by German director Christoph Hochhäusler.
Another German director, Angela Schanelec, was honored with the Silver Bear for best screenplay for her experimental work based on the Greek myth of Oedipus, "Music." Finally, the Silver Bear for an outstanding artistic contribution went to camerawoman Helene Louvart for her cinematography in "Disco Boy" by Giacomo Abbruzzese.
Jury snubs critics' favorites
The main competition's jury was led by US actor Kristen Stewart, who was accompanied by six co-jurors: Iranian-French actor Golshifteh Farahani, German director and writer Valeska Grisebach, US producer Francine Maisler, Hong Kong director and producer Johnnie To, and two recent Golden Bear winners, Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude ("Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn," 2021) and director Carla Simon from Catalonia ("Alcarras," 2022).
Among the critics' favorites that were snubbed by the jury were Sundance hit "Past Lives" by Korean-Canadian director Celine Song, and Mexican entry "Totem" by Lila Aviles, though the latter won another award earlier in the day. "Suzume," a crowd-pleasing Japanese anime, also left empty-handed. There were 19 films running for the Golden and Silver Bears.
According to the competition's rules, the jury may not award more than one prize to the same work, except the acting awards, which can be given to actors on top of another prize for the film itself.
More awards by independent juries
Prizes awarded by various independent juries were also handed out earlier on Saturday. "Totem" by Lila Aviles won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, while the International Federation of Film Critics's jury awarded their competition prize to "The Survival of Kindness" by Rolf de Heer.The best feature film Teddy Award — a prize focusing on queer cinema — went to "All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White" by Nigerian director Babatunde Apalowo, for his story of two men who develop a close relationship in a country where homosexual relations are illegal.
The Panorama Audience Award for the best feature film went to Burkinabe filmmaker Apolline Traore's "Sira," a feminist take on Islamist terror, while the best documentary according to the Panorama audience was D. Smith's portrait of Black trans sex workers in the US, "Kokomo City."
Following two years of pandemic restrictions, the film festival returned to its regular format this year. Renowned as the most political of all the major film festivals, the Berlinale dedicated various special events to Ukraine, marking the one-year-anniversary of Russia's war of aggression, and to Iran's protesters, all while greeting many stars on its red carpet through world premieres and special screenings.
Nearly 300 films were screened across the festival's different sections. While the award ceremony marks the Berlinale's last red carpet event, the 10-day festival concludes on Sunday with more screenings for the public.