Fire at Sea honoured with the Golden Bear!!

The Berlin Film Festival chose to award a big-hearted Europe this year by handing its Golden Bear to a documentary maker who already snagged a Lion at Venice – namely, Gianfranco Rosi, for his Fire at Sea, a very fine work that directs our attention to the situation of the myriad migrants whose only hope all too often sinks into the murky depths in the dark hold of a ship, off the coast of the small Italian island of Lampedusa.

Under the auspices of its director, Dieter Kosslick, the event’s closing ceremony got under way with a message intended for the increasing number of migrants at our door (and our ports), and with the awarding of a Silver Bear to a short film co-produced by the UK, the Netherlands and Denmark: A Man Returned by Mahdi Fleifel, himself a former refugee who is now a European. The evening therefore also drew to a close on this same heartrending note. Up on stage, after he had accepted his prize from Meryl Streep – who, like the rest of her jury, was clearly very moved by the profound dialogue that art can strike up with reality, all the while maintaining a certain flair and modesty – the director of Fire at Sea dedicated the film to the people of Lampedusa, the tiny community of sailors slap bang in the middle of the Mediterranean who for years have been opening their arms to men and women whose lives are hanging by a thread – the very fine thread of the horizon that they are tossed towards in shoddy crafts, while a large proportion of them do not make the crossing alive.

Europe also took centre stage in the categories of the Silver Bears. Three years after the superb An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker, Oscar-winning Bosnian filmmaker Danis Tanovic again picked up the Grand Jury Prize for Death in Sarajevo. The jury was bowled over by this subtle and effervescent mosaic set within the walls of the famous Hotel Europe in the Balkan city where Archduke Franz Ferdinand died, murdered by anarchist Gavrilo Princip, thus sounding the death knell for a world that had not yet begun to put numbers to its world wars, and marking the start of a long dance of death.

The Silver Bear for Best Director went to French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Love for Things to Come [+], a film whose sheer finesse and sensitivity, elevated by a fine performance by Isabelle Huppert, won the jury over. These same qualities were recognised in Danish actress Trine Dyrholm for her delicate acting in the role of the heroine in The Commune by the excellent Thomas Vinterberg – that of a woman slowly losing her youth, along with all the things that it had previously offered her. Another deeply moving female-focused story, United States of Love [+] by Polish director Tomasz Wasilewski, was rewarded for its complex screenplay, leaving the director and screenwriter “speechless”.

Lastly, to round off the winners of the European trophies and focus the attention on those countries that are still fighting for their freedom, Berlin crowned the Belgian-Tunisian co-production Hedi [+] by Mohammed Ben Attia twofold, offering the Silver Bear for Best Actor to Majd Mastoura for his gentle performance and the Silver Bear for Best First Feature Film to its talented director.


Here is the full list of winners:

Golden Bear for Best Film
Fire at Sea  – Gianfranco Rosi

Silver Bear – Grand Jury Prize
Death in Sarajevo – Danis Tanovic

Alfred Bauer Prize
A Lullaby to The Sorrowful Mystery – Lav Diaz

Silver Bear for Best Director
Mia Hansen-Løve – Things to Come

Silver Bear for Best Actress
Trine Dyrholm – The Commune

Silver Bear for Best Actor
Majd Mastoura – Hedi

Silver Bear for Best Script
United States of Love  – Tomasz Wasilewski

Silver Bear for Best Artistic Contribution
Mark Lee Ping-Bing – Crosscurrent

Best First Feature Film
Hedi – Mohamed Ben Attia

Golden Bear for Best Short Film
Balada de um batraquio – Leonor Teles

Silver Bear – Short Film
A Man Returned – Mahdi Fleifel

Best Film Generation KPlus
The Trap – Jayaraj Rajasekharan Nair

Best Film Generation 14Plus
Mellow Mud  – Renārs Vimba

Teddy Award
Tomcat – Händl Klaus