65th Berlinale awards meet up to the festival′s political reputation | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 14.02.2015
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65th Berlinale awards meet up to the festival's political reputation

The Golden Bear went to Jafar Panahi, a dissident Iranian filmmaker whose submission "Taxi" was filmed covertly. Renowned directors left empty-handed, but young talents and small countries enjoyed success.

The crowd burst into cheers as the Golden Bear was awarded to "Taxi" by Jafar Panahi. After all, the film would have never even been made had the director followed the Iranian government's orders.

The dissident filmmaker received a 20-year work and travel ban in 2010. Panahi has not left Iran since. His 11-year-old niece, who also plays in the film, took the Golden Bear for him, moved to tears.

Fortunately, Panahi has kept on making films. Since the ban was imposed, he has delivered three features which were screened at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals. "This Is No Film" and "Closed Curtain" tell about the oppression of his house arrest. "Taxi" goes out in the city to talk with the people.

In the film, the clever filmmaker plays the role of a taxi driver. Small inconspicuous cameras collect the impressions of a variety of passengers, from a bootlegger, a victim of an accident, to a lawyer.

Taxi. Copyright: Jafar Panahi

Filmmaker Jafar Panahi is a taxi driver in "Taxi"

The taxi becomes the setting of a series of tragic, dramatic, funny and exciting scenes. Along the way, the film masterfully manages to criticize society, too.

"Taxi" was already an undisputed favorite among the festival's public this year. The jury headed by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky was also won over by the film. Once again, the Berlin film festival meets up to its reputation of being a particularly political festival.

Small countries, grand movies

Other awards given during the ceremony on Saturday, February 14, 2015, also reflect this image. The Alfred Bauer Prize, which is awarded for perspectives in the art of filmmaking, went to "Ixcanul" by Jayro Bustamante, the first Guatemalan film to be entered in the Berlinale. It tells the story of a Mayan girl who is about to get married but who longs to explore the world beyond the mountains. Jayro Bustamante, who grew up in the region of the Kaqchikel Maya, offers a very intimate perspective on the local culture.

The Silver Bear for Best Director was awarded to two directors: Romanian director Radu Jude for his black-and-white Balkan western "Aferim," and to Polish filmmaker Malgorzata Szumowska for the dark comedy "Body."

Ixcanul. Copyright: La Casa de Producción

A shot from "Ixcanul"

The dark secrets of a group of priests are revealed in the Chilean film "El Club." Director Pablo Larrain obtained the Grand Jury Prize for this haunting work.

The Silver Bear for the best screenplay also went to a film set in Chile. "The Pearl Button," a documentary by Patrico Guzman, shows how the ocean contains the history of all humanity.

Outstanding artistic contributions

Two prominent Europeans were deemed best actors: Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. Both received a Silver Bear for their roles in the British production "45 Years," a film which depicts the sudden end of a marriage of 45 years.

The Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution was also awarded for two films: the Russian episode film "Under Electric Clouds" filmed by Evgeniy Privin and Sergey Mikhlchuk and for filming done by Sturla Brandth Grövlen in Sebastian Schipper's "Victoria," in which the entire story depicting a breathless night in Berlin is filmed in one single (!) shot.

Victoria. Copyright: Senator Film

A still from "Victoria"

A total of 19 productions competed for this year's Silver and Golden Bears. The 65th Berlinale awarded directors from small countries, whereas renowned film directors such as the US legend Terrence Malick, the Spanish Isable Coixet, the British Peter Greenaway and the Germans Andreas Dresen and Werner Herzog were left empty-handed.

The jury's selection challenges the world to embark on new cinematographic territory.

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