BERLINALE 2020: RESULTS OF THE EUROPEAN FILM FESTIVAL COMMENTED BY IGOR SOUKMANOV
On February 29 in the capital of Germany the 70th Berlin International Film Festival announced the results. This time, a real “Listapad” delegation worked at the Berlinale: documentary film program director Irina Demyanova, feature film program director Igor Soukmanov, the assistant of program director Julia Samoilovskikh and photographer Pavel Krichko. We asked Igor Soukmanov to comment on the programme, awards, scandals and the most interesting events of the festival.
About the festival and work of the new direction
“There was a special attention to the 70th Berlinale – a jubilee festival, for the first time managed by the new direction. This was the main intrigue. What will Carlo Chatrian (before Berlinale he worked at the Locarno festival) and his new team do as the leaders of the Berlin festival movement, will there be reforms, upheavals, will the festival be different? Right up until the end, these questions were in the air. The programme organically resonated with the content of previous years. You even could have a sinful thought that it resonates too organically.
There appeared a new competitive programme “Enocunters”, designed to encourage the edgy works of independent filmmakers. It is consonant with the already well-known programmes “Forum” and “Panorama”. Four of its participants were awarded, the main award of the programme went to The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) – an experimental eight-hour film that reflects the life of a tiny Japanese village in Kyoto Prefecture.”
About the programme
“In reality, the conceptual pattern (which is the essence of programming) appeared in the very last moment. In fact, after watching the entire programme, one can say that 70th Berlinale succeeded and became one of the most outstanding festivals in the last 10-15 years. You can trace an important trend in the construction of the programme. It starts with the cinema of private stories, frill exercises in different genres, and proceeds to pictures with a global vision of the world. It goes from personal human problems and phobias to universally significant questions. This is a very competent professional approach.”
About the awards
The international jury, headed by Jeremy Irons, gave the main prize of the Berlinale to Mohammad Rasoulof’s film There Is No Evil, made in a co-production of Germany, the Czech Republic, and Iran.
“It was clear that the Iranian picture, shown in the end of the programme, will win, since it summed up everything that had been shown before. I will not say that the picture is outstanding, but it defends the principles of the Berlin Film Festival – the coverage of social issues, social world order. In the film There Is No Evil this is the theme of the death penalty, lack of freedom in an outwardly prosperous society, lurking in its flaws. Plus, the director belongs to the camp of dissidents, fighters; he is in the status of a political prisoner. There is a general civil pathos in this film. Questions of the death penalty and political repression could not have ambiguous answers; it can only be a no answer. However, the film also has its own poetry, since it is almost impossible to resist all these problems.
The decision of the jury led by Jeremy Irons can be called one of the most balanced decisions. It is a kind of sophisticated British politesse, when radical works are not overlooked, but deserve their position in the list of winners.”
The Jury Grand Prix went to Eliza Hittman for the film Never Rarely Sometimes Always that previously took part in the Sundance Film Festival and received the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award.
“It is another excellent decision of the jury. For the majority Eliza Hittman is a wild card of the festival race, a representative of the independent American cinema. In a way, this film is ready to reconcile the antipodes. It is a topical female cinema, touching on the themes of abortion, the fragility of the female world and female solidarity. At the same time, the picture does not try to play people off against one another and paint the world in black and white, and certainly deserves a grand prix for its beautiful colours and delicate outsight on the verge of documentary, pure cinéma vérité, where naturalness is equivalent to improvisation.”
According to the opinion of the Jury, the best director of the festival is Hon San Su – the director of the Korean film The Woman Who Run.
“This time Berlin Festival placed emphasis on specific directors, whose works are tinged with sheer originality and serious resistance to expectations of the audience. It’s so wonderful that this work received a prize for directing.”
A Special 70th Berlinale Prize went to the French film Delete History by Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern.
Delete History is an excellent French comedy that managed to unite the audience with the ability to laugh at the quirks of a computerized reality, where we find ourselves insecure and absurd in front of a wireless world. We watch this film and smile, recognizing ourselves. Man is the supreme creation, but what can we do without Wi-Fi? We are losing our intimate history and protection. All our weaknesses begin to play against ourselves, but it's nobody else's fault but our own.”
Silver Bears for Best Actor and Best Actress went to Elio Germano for the film Hidden Away by Giorgio Diritti and Paula Beer for the film Undine by Christian Petzold. The last picture also received the prize from the International Federation of Film Critics FIPRESCI. The award for Best Script was given to Damiano and Fabio D'Innocenzo – the authors of the film Bad Tales.
The best at Encounters
The Best Director Award in the new Encounters programme received Cristi Puiu for the film Malmkrog.
“Cristi Puiu is the leader of European cinema, of the Romanian wave; all his films, without exception, can be included in the golden fund of cinema. Everyone waited for this historical picture. This is a feast for intellectual mind and eyes. The film is based on philosophical debates about life and death, the philosophy of Vladimir Solovyov. This is a kind of mystical and multi-layered European kaidan, echoing Bunuel and Amenabar (“Others”). It is another triumph of the Berlinale, confirming that all the voices were heard, infelt and deservedly awarded. At the 70th Berlinale, all our worries had a perfect conclusion.”
About the scandals
“The main film and the main event of the festival was the experimental DAU. Natasha by Ilya Khrzhanovskiy. It is even wrong to call it a film; it is an epic fragment, an excerpt of a grandiose project. The Main Competition Jury awarded the German cinematographer Jurgen Jurges with the Prize for Outstanding Artistic Contribution. There were fierce disputes, some of them unfolded inside the Russian camp – a thing with well-known open letter sent to the festival management with a request to explain, how a film that violates ethical standards was included into the programme. To the credit of the festival, this time such voices didn’t get the upper hand, as it happened in Cannes (Lars von Trier was declared persona non grata for his postmodern statement about Hitler).
In my opinion, the fact that the jury recognized DAU. Natasha and awarded the cinematographer for outstanding contribution is an act of goodwill and the triumph of art in the world of endless compromises. This is a very important decision in the era of Neo-conservatism, when people, driven by good intentions, try to reduce the complex nature of human beings to black and white principles: yes or no, good or bad. In this context, if the picture received the highest award, it would jeopardize not only the work of the festival management, but also the most radical trend in cinema. With this fine decision, the jury won a very difficult chess game, that had not occurred at various festivals for a long time. This is top class diplomacy, non-compliance with modern trends and films that flirt with the audience.”
Berlinale 2020 Prize Winners
Golden Bear for Best Film
There Is No Evil, Germany, Czech Republic, Iran
Directed by Mohammad Rasoulof
Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize
Never Rarely Sometimes Always, USA
Directed by Eliza Hittman
Silver Bear 70th Berlinale
Delete History, France, Belgium
Directed by Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern
Silver Bear for Best Director
The Woman Who Ran, South Korea
Directed by Hong Sang-soo
Silver Bear for Best Actress
Paula Beer for Undine, Germany, France
Silver Bear for Best Actor
Elio Germano for Hidden Away, Italy
Silver Bear for Best Script
Damiano and Fabio D'Innocenzo for Bad Tales, Italy, Switzerland
Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution
Jürgen Jürges for cinematography in DAU. Natasha
Golden Bear for Best Short Film
Directed by Keisha Rae Witherspoon
Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize (Short Film)
Directed by Rafael Manuel
Best Documentary Film
Irradiés, France, Cambodia
Directed by Rithy Panh
Best Film (Encounters programme)
The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin)
Directed by C.W. Winter and Anders Edström
Best Director (Encounters programme)
Cristi Puiu for Malmkrog
Special Jury Prize (Encounters programme)
The Trouble With Being Born
Directed by Sandra Wollner
Audi Short Film Award
Directed by Adrien Mérigeau
The GWFF Best First Feature Award
Directed by Camilo Restrepo
International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) Awards
Main Competition: Undine, Germany, France. Directed by Christian Petzold
Encounters: The Metamorphosis of Birds, Portugal. Directed by Catarina Vasconcelos
Panorama: Mogul Mowgli, UK. Directed by Bassam Tariq
Forum: The Twentieth Century, Canada. Directed by Matthew Rankin
Photo: Pavel Krichko
Text: Tatiana Zaydal