Documentary highlights at the Berlinale
Beyond prizes given in different sections, the Berlinale now also has a distinct prize recognizing a documentary film. It has been awarded to Alice Diop's "We."
Already recognized with the prize for best film in the Encounters section in March, Alice Diop's film "We" has now also been named the recipient of the Berlinale Documentary Award. Praised by the jury for her "curiosity about the human condition and her thoughtful language," Diop explores the suburban spaces around Paris through stories revealing how past divisions still haunt France's present.
'The First 54 Years – An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation'
The Berlinale Documentary Award jury also gave a special mention to this film, described by "Screen Daily" as "essential viewing for anyone who seeks enlightenment on the complexities and impasses of Middle East conflict." Israeli director Avi Mograbi exposes the catastrophe of the occupation of the Palestinian territories through interviews with former Israeli soldiers in Gaza and the West Bank.
'Mr Bachmann and His Class'
Maria Speth's hopeful take on education already won the Silver Bear Jury Prize. Even though it is nearly four hours long, the half-day class is a captivating learning experience. In a multicultural German town, teacher Dieter Bachmann, a 64-year-old who stayed young at heart, leads a group of children with roots in 12 countries.
'A Cop Movie'
The police force is one of the most controversial institutions in Mexico. Director Alonso Ruizpalacios explores what it means to be a cop in Mexico City in this Netflix production. Combining documentary and role-playing scenes, this is definitely not your typical "cop movie." The Berlinale jury recognized Yibran Asuad's exceptional editing work in this film.
Exploring the role of independent artists in an autocratic country, Aliaksei Paluyan's film follows three actors of the Free Belarus Theater in Minsk as they take part in the mass protests following the contested presidential elections in Belarus. The documentary is part of the Berlinale Special section and has also been shown at various international festivals.
Filmmaker Eliane Raheb combines quirky animations, interviews and archive material in this profile of a man who was born in 1963 to a conservative, Catholic Lebanese family. As that wasn't quite compatible with his homosexuality, Miguel fled to Spain 37 years ago. The documentary follows him as he returns to his home country to dissect the traumas of his past.
'As I Want'
A rally marking the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution was tainted by a series of violent sexual assaults. Women reacted by taking to the streets. As a form of protection, Samaher Alqadi decided to take her camera with her as she joined in the protest, leading her to create this hard-hitting political documentary.
Although this HBO documentary is not among the films nominated for the Berlinale Documentary Award, the ultimate profile of superstar Tina Turner's storied life generated a lot of buzz during the industry event and is also among the works screened in the Berlinale Special section.
'A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces'
Wuhan became infamously associated with the outbreak of the coronavirus, but Shengze Zhu's portrait of the sprawling metropolis's relationship to the Yangtze River and the impact of industrialization is not about the pandemic itself. Still, its meditative tone definitely reflects the atmosphere of grief of the past year. It won the Caligari Film Prize, which goes to a film in the Forum section.
Carlos Alfonso Corral's debut documentary feature is a raw and lyrical profile of a homeless community living by the US-Mexico border. The marginalized protagonists have been abandoned by the system, and the black-and-white cinematography of the film emphasizes their vulnerability due to trauma, addiction and police violence.