The Berlinale International Film Festival is one of the most prestigious awards in the critical calendar for movie aficionados. It’s the world’s biggest film festival by ticket sales, with over 500,000 visitors in 2022.
This year’s awards took place in February. They were held at various venues in Berlin, Germany, including the famous Berlinale Palast cinema.
This year’s jury president was renowned Indian American film director M. Night Shyamalan.
Many of these films might not have even seen an official release in New Zealand. However, if the Berlin jury thought they were award-winning, then they should be well worth checking out!
This year’s top winner of the Golden Bear award for best picture was the Spanish drama Alcarass, directed by Carla Simon.
Golden Bear – “Alcarras” dir. Carla Simon
Alcarass is a slow, contemplative drama about the changing lives of peach farmers in rural Spain. This is Director Carla Simón’s second Golden Bear, after her debut feature Summer 1993 also picked up the Berlinale’s top award in 2015.
It follows a farming family as their land is gradually sold off to build a solar power plant – from the rebellious teenagers to the hard-working grandfather. The renewable energy twist creates a more nuanced and modern story, than the traditional fossil-fuelled corporate villains of Hollywood productions.
Silver Bear Jury Prize – “Robe of Gems” dir. Natalia López Gallardo
The third runner-up was this slightly confusing but enthralling art house crime drama from Mexican director Natalia López Gallardo.
There’s lots of death and sex here, with lingering images of corpses captured with lurid and vivid cinematography. But what exactly is going on, is often left unclear.
If you want to buy a Robe of Gems – you probably won’t get one by watching this movie. However, you could try a $5 minimum deposit casino. No promises on the gems, but at least there’re no Mexican gangsters involved!
Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize – “The Novelist’s Film” dir. Hong Sang-soo
A movie for artists and thinkers of a sedate temperament, this Korean philosophical feature is definitely not a Michael Bay blockbuster.
The Novelist’s Film is essentially 90 minutes of black and white short conversations, with a few post-modern elements and the strange camera zooms thrown in.
It mostly follows the titular author, played by Lee Hyeyoung, as she has drunken conversations with literary and film scene friends while roaming around her nondescript South Korean city.
There are certainly some smart conversations and well-shot scenes. But it wasn’t really this writer’s cup of tea!
Silver Bear for Best Director – Claire Denis, “Both Sides of the Blade”
This Parisian drama follows a love triangle between a professional rugby player, a radio show host and an ex-convict.
It’s not an incredibly complex movie. But if you enjoy character drama and serious but excellent French acting – you might like this one. The Berlin jury certainly did!
Silver Bear for Best Lead Performance – Meltem Kaptan, “Rabiye Kurnaz vs George W Bush”
A determined and charismatic older woman faces a legal battle against a corrupt system. It sounds like a classic Hollywood tale, and it is, but this one is actually based on a true story.
It follows German-Turkish mother Rabiye Kurnaz, played by Meltem Kaptan, who sees her well-intentioned, but unlucky son end up imprisoned in the USA’s Guantánamo Bay prison.
With her son always proclaiming innocence and held without charge under terrorism laws, Mrs Kurnaz campaigned relentlessly for half a decade to get her son out.
You may appreciate some of the comedy more if you speak German. However, this is nonetheless an interesting tale told well – and Kaptan puts in a fantastic performance.