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Israeli film about an Israeli man who wants to be French wins top prize at Berlin Film Festival

By Say Peng  /  20 Feb 2019 (Wednesday)

Photo Credit: Berlin International Film Festival

The 69th Berlin International Film Festival, also known as the Berlinale, has ended and the winners have been announced.

The jury, led by French actress Juliette Binoche and comprising American film critic Justin Chang, German actress Sandra Hüller ('Toni Erdmann'), and Chilean-Argentine director Sebastián Lelio, awarded the Golden Bear, the top prize of the festival, to Israeli director Nadav Lapid's 'Synonyms'.

The film follows a young Israeli man who turns his back on his home country and migrates to France, where, with the help of his Franco-Israeli dictionary, he tries to become a Frenchman. The film explores the notion of personal and national identity and what it means to belong.

Winning the second prize, the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize, is French director François Ozon's 'By the Grace of God'.

Based on the real-life case of Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, who was accused of molesting more than 80 boys, the film investigates the traumatic effects of sexual abuse on the victims and the community.

The priest actually tried to delay the film from having its theatrical release in France, claiming that the film will affect the outcome of the trial, but his appeal has been rejected by the court.

Indie cinema The Projector has screened two of Ozon's films, 'The New Girlfriend' and 'Double Lover'. Let's hope they screen this film too.

The Silver Bear for Best Director went to Angela Schanelec's 'I Was at Home, But'.

Borrowing its title from Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu's 'I was Born, But' (although the film has nothing to do with Ozu's film), 'I Was at Home, But' explores what happens to a dysfunctional family after their 13-year-old son goes missing for a week and returns home without a word of explanation.

It is undoubtedly an intriguing premise, but the film has polarised audiences and critics. 

The Guardian called it "frozen and torpid" while the Hollywood Reporter called it "a complex, challenging but brilliant work."

The two Best Acting prizes, the Silver Bear for Best Actress and the Silver Bear for Best Actor, went to the two leads from Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai's 'So Long, My Son'.

Wang is no stranger to the Berlinale. He has previously won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prix for 'Beijing Bicycle'.

The Silver Bear Best Screenplay went to Italian director Claudio Giovannesi's 'Piranhas', who also co-wrote the screenplay.

The Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize, awarded to films that "opens new perspectives on cinematic art", went to German director Nora Fingscheidt's 'System Crasher'.

And finally, the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution was awarded to Rasmus Videbæk for his cinematography in Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland's 'Out Stealing Horses'.

Check out the trailer of 'Out Stealing Horses' below and you'll see why Videbæk has won.

This year's festival marked the end of festival director Dieter Kosslick's 18-year reign. Former artistic director of the Locarno Film Festival Carlo Chatrian will take over, promising an exciting future for the festival.

In total, the Berlinale screened 7,000 films and sold 335,000 tickets, making the Berlinale one of the most popular festivals in the world.
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