Prizes and Poetry as the Berlinale Ends
Our Berlinale Blogger doesn't agree with where all the prizes went, but the evening itself was an amusing, star-studded event that made a perfect finale to the festival.
The Berlinale is over and I'm heading home after 12 days of sitting in a dark room watching films from all around the world – many of which will never get released in UK cinemas. It's a surreal experience, joining thousands of critics, programmers and distributors as we wait to see what the next premiere will be like.
The films that played in the official Competition this year mostly failed to blow me away, although several were impressive in minor ways. Aki Kaurismaki’s The Other Side of Hope was the clear standout, a warm, compassionate look at human kindness, loneliness and refugees. The plot, which followed a Syrian man arriving in Finland, made it seem like a dead cert for the Golden Bear, the top competition prize.
That accolade went, however, to On Body and Soul, a magical-realist film about slaughterhouse workers who end up sharing the same dream. It's a very cinematic film, giving its audience a glimpse into complex interior lives, but I found its final act to be too weak to have earned it the top prize. Other films I preferred – such as Have A Nice Day or The Party, went unrecognised.
The awards ceremony, however, was itself a riotous piece of entertainment. Dana Bunescu, the editor of Ana, Mon Amour, won the Outstanding Artistic Contribution prize, which recognises excellence in a particular field. She clearly had not anticipated being on stage that evening, walking to the stage in a daze wearing jeans and a shirt. Her speech was just three words: “thank you, I'm speechless.” The evening also involved best actor winner Georg Friedrich putting his chewing gum on his silver bear statue and reciting a strange poem, while Kaurismaki seemed to have celebrated in advance and never made it to the stage for his best director award.
The overwhelming tone of the evening was one that celebrated and recognised the importance of art. Agnieszka Holland called filmmakers around the world to be bold and to speak truth in dark times, while festival director Dieter Kosslick launched a defence of a journalist recently arrested in Turkey. Everyone on that stage believed that cinema has power – a message that made me proud to have been a part of the 67th Berlinale.