And the Golden Bear goes to…

By Andrew McCathie — A love story about two loners working in a Budapest slaughterhouse won the Berlin International Film Festival’s prestigious Golden Bear for best picture. Hungarian director Ildiko Enyedi’s Testrol es lelekrol (On Body and Soul), which emerged as an early frontrunner at the 10-day festival after winning high marks from festival critics, tells the story of a couple who discover they dream the same dream every night.
On Body and Soul is her fifth feature film since she won the Cannes Film Festival’s Camera d’or in 1989 for best first feature film for her comedy-drama My Twentieth Century.
Now in its 67th year, the Berlinale prides itself on being one of the most political of the major film festivals, ever ready to tackle major political issues or tough social questions. “The world is in a very bad way,” festival director Dieter Kosslick told the gala audience of international celebrities and called on Ankara to release German journalist Deniz Yucel, who is being held in Turkey on terrorist charges.
“We live in very difficult times,” said acclaimed Polish director Agnieszka Holland, who won the Alfred Bauer Prize for a feature film that opens new perspectives for her movie Pokot (Spoor).
“We need films that are brave and that touch on subjects that are important to our planet,” Holland said.
931407A black comedy-cum-thriller, Pokot tells the story of how a retired woman’s bid to create a utopian life in the countryside is shattered by the slaughtering of animals by hunters.
Legendary Finnish film-maker Aki Kaurismaki was awarded the Silver Bear for best director for his bittersweet comedy Toivon tuollapuolen (The Other Side of Hope).
It was Kaurismaki’s first feature film in six years and was The Leningrad Cowboys Go America director’s personal political statement on what he saw as Europe’s lack of humanity in the face of the region’s refugee crisis.
A hit with this year’s festival goers, Kaurismaki’s film tells the story of two people — a travelling shirt salesman and a Syrian refugee — whose lives eventually converge.
In handing out the awards, the festival’s seven-member jury under veteran Dutch director Paul Verhoeven had to chose from 18 films that formed the main competition.
France’s Alain Gomis was honoured with the festival’s second most important award, the Grand Jury Prize for Felicite, a raw story about a singer in Kinshasa trying to raise money for an operation for her son.
Enyedi’s success at this year’s Berlinale is likely to provide added momentum to Central European cinema, which has staged a comeback in recent years after a dearth following the implosion of communism about 30 years ago.
Altogether three film-makers from Central Europe won awards at this year’s Berlinale, which, in addition to screening movies with edgy and contemporary themes, is a celebration of art house cinema.
The Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution was awarded to Dana Bunescu for her editing of Romanian director Calin Peter Netzer’s Ana, mon amour.
South Korea’s Kim Min-Hee won the Silver Bear for best actress for her portrayal of a woman seeking the meaning of love in Hong Sang Soo’s Bamui haebyun-eoseo honja (On the Beach at Night Alone).
The Silver Bear for best actor went to Austria’s Georg Friedrich, who plays a father trying to reconnect with his teenage son in Helle Naechte (Bright Nights) from Berlin-based Thomas Arslan.
Palestinian film-maker Raed Andoni was awarded the inaugural Glashuette Original Documentary Award for Istiyad Ashbah (Ghost Hunting), in which former inmates reconstruct events at Israel’s main interrogation centre.
“I feel sad about the 7,000 Palestinians living in those jails,” said an emotional Andoni, adding that they “did not get the recognition that I do.” — dpa