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Berlin Film Festival Winners: Refugee Doc 'Fire At Sea' Takes Golden Bear

UPDATE, 11:40 AM PT: Italian director Gianfrano Rosi scooped the Golden Bear tonight for his documentary Fire At Sea. The film was heavily tipped to take the top award after wowing Berlin audiences and critics with its timely study of the island of Lampedusa, which has become a metaphor for the flight of refugees to Europe. Rosi adds the Bear to the Venice Golden Lion he scored in 2013 with another doc, Sacro Gra. Jury president Meryl Streep said her panel was “swept away” by Fire At Sea. Rosi, in his acceptance, dedicated the prize to the inhabitants of Lampedusa “who were always accepting to people arriving there.” Of the refugee crisis, which has been top of mind all during the Berlin Film Festival, Rosi said, “For the first time, Europe is considering making certain policies and I’m not happy with what I see. It is not acceptable that people die crossing the sea to escape from tragedy.”

The Grand Jury Prize went to Death In Sarajevo, by Danis Tanovic who won a Foreign Language Oscar with his 2001 war drama No Man’s Land. Mia Hansen-Love’s warmly embraced Things To Come brought the French helmer the Best Director Silver Bear. The drama stars Isabelle Huppert as a professor whose life begins to unravel.

Huppert was tipped as a possible winner for Best Actress, but the prize went to Danish star Trine Dyrholm for Thomas Vinterberg’s The Commune. Dyrholm plays a woman attempting to stem the boredom that has seeped into her marriage by convincing her husband to start a collective in their newly-inherited home.

The Best Actor prize was reserved for Majd Mastoura in Inhebbek Hedi which was also named Best First Feature. Director Mohamed Ben Attia’s drama sees a young Tunisian whose life, and upcoming marriage, is all planned out for him until he falls for another young woman.

Giving credence to the notion that screening at the end of a festival is not always a bad thing, two films which ran late in the event were awarded prizes. Tomasz Wasilewski’s 1990-set, female-led Polish drama, United States Of Love, scooped the win for Best Script, while Filipino helmer Lav Diaz was awarded the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for his A Lullaby To The Sorrowful Mystery. That drama runs eight hours and was screened with a lunch break in the middle on Thursday.

Berlin is a highly political festival which traditionally features a strongly art-house lineup, but can sometimes elect to award more commercial fare as was the case in 2014 with Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel snatching bears. Last year, Charlotte Rampling’s Oscar-nominated 45 Years turn debuted in Berlin and was rewarded. This evening’s prizes stuck closer to tradition. Some of the higher-profile pics like Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special, Michael Grandage’s Genius, Alex Gibney’s doc Zero Days and Emma Thompson-starrer Alone In Berlin did not factor in the awards tonight.

The full list of winners from the major sections is below:

PREVIOUS, 9:54 AM PT: The 66th Berlin Film Festival draws to a close tonight with the awards ceremony about to kick off in the capital city. Jury president this year is Meryl Streep whose panel will hand out Golden and Silver Bears across a dozen categories. The fest is traditionally an event with a sociopolitical bent and this year was no different as the refugee crisis was front and center. Among the films that have generated buzz going in this evening are Gianfranco Rosi’s documentary Fire At Sea; Mia Hansen-Love’s drama Things To Come; Alex Gibney’s doc Zero Days; Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special; and Tomasz Wasilewski’s United States Of Love, among others.

COMPETITION

Golden Bear for Best Film
Fire At Sea
Italy/France
Dir: Gianfranco Rosi

Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize
Death In Sarajevo
France/Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dir: Danis Tanovic

Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for a feature film that opens new perspectives
A Lullaby To The Sorrowful Mystery
Philippines/Singapore
Dir: Lav Diaz

Silver Bear for Best Director
Mia Hansen-Love, Things To Come

Silver Bear for Best Actress
Trine Dyrholm, The Commune

Silver Bear for Best Actor
Majd Mastoura, Inhebbek Hedi

Silver Bear for Best Script
Tomasz Wasilewski, United States Of Love (Poland/Sweden)

Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution
Mark Lee Ping-Bing, Cinematographer, Crosscurrent (China)

Best First Feature
Inhebbek Hedi
Tunisia/Belgium/France
Dir: Mohamed Ben Attia

Golden Bear for Best Short Film
Balada De Um Batráquio
Portugal
Dir: Leonor Teles

Silver Bear Jury Prize (Short Film)
A Man Returned
UK/Denmark/Netherlands
Dir: Mahdi Fleifel

Audi Short Film Award
Jin Zhi Xia Mao
Taiwan
Dir: Chiang Wei Liang

PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED

PANORAMA AUDIENCE AWARDS

Fiction Film
Junction 48
Israel/Germany/U.S.
Dir: Udi Aloni

2nd Place
Grüße Aus Fukushima (Fukushima, Mon Amour)
Germany
Dir: Doris Dörrie

3rd Place
Shepherds And Butchers
South Africa/U.S./Germany
Dir: Oliver Schmitz

PANORAMA DOKUMENTE

Best Documentary
Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?
Israel/UK
Dirs: Tomer & Barak Heymann

2nd Place
Strike A Pose
Netherlands/Belgium
Dirs: Reijer Zwaan, Ester Gold

3rd Place
Weekends
South Korea
Dir: Lee Dong-ha

EUROPA CINEMAS BERLINALE LABEL
The First, The Last
Belgium
Dir: Bouli Lanners

GENERATION KPLUS

Crystal Bear Best Film
Ottaal (The Trap)
India
Dir: Jayaraj Rajasekharan Nair

Special Mention
Jamais contente (Miss Impossible)
France
Dir: Emilie Deleuze

Crystal Bear Best Short Film
El Inicio De Fabrizio (Fabrizio’s Initiation)
Argentina
Dir: Mariano Biasin

Special Mention Short Film
Ninnoc
Netherlands
Dir: Niki Padidar

Grand Prix for Best Film
Rara
Chile/Argentina
Dir: Pepa San Martín

Special Mention
Genç Pehlivanlar (Young Wrestlers)
Netherlands/Turkey
Dir: Mete Gümürhan

Special Prize for Best Short Film
Semele
U.S./Cyprus
Dir: Myrsini Aristidou

Special Mention
Aurelia Y Pedro (Aurelia And Pedro)
Mexico
Dirs: Omar Robles, José Permar

GENERATION 14PLUS

Crystal Bear for Best Film
Es Esmu Seit (Mellow Mud)
Latvia
Dir: Renārs Vimba

Special Mention
Las Plantas (Plants)
Chile
Dir: Roberto Doveris

Crystal Bear for Best Short Film
Balcony
UK
Dir: Toby Fell-Holden

Special Mention
Kroppen Ar En Ensam Plats (The Body Is A Lonely Place)
Sweden
Dir: Ida Lindgren

Grand Prix
Las Plantas (Plants)
Chile
Dir: Roberto Doveris

Special Mention
Zhaleika
Germany
Dir: Eliza Petkova

Special Prize for Best Short Film
O Noapte In Tokoriki (A Night In Tokoriki)
Romania
Dir: Roxana Stroe

Special Mention
Kroppen Ar En ensam Plats (The Body Is A Lonely Place)
Sweden
Dir: Ida Lindgren

  1. That “Fire at Sea” trailer sure makes it look like some awful pretentious nonsense that only idiots would think is helping the cause of refugees.

    Did anyone actually see it? Looks like it’s full of recreations and it’s more like a “documentary” than a documentary.

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