Italian Gianfranco Rosi’s powerful and apposite documentary "Fire at Sea," made in the eye of the storm of the refugee crisis, has won the Golden Bear in Berlin.
It is the second major film festival where Rosi has scooped the top prize, following his Golden Lion in Venice for "Sacro Gra," in 2013. For one documentary filmmaker to triumph in festival competitions dominated by fiction is accomplishment enough; for the same director to do so at different festivals in quick succession is extraordinary.
In an evening where every award went to a different film, Mia Hansen-Løve won the Silver Bear for best director, for "L'Avenir," her supremely well-judged account of a middle-aged philosophy professor, played by Isabelle Huppert, whose life is suddenly and unexpectedly turned upside down.
Danis Tanovic won the Grand Jury Prize, effectively the jury's second prize, for his Altmanesque drama "Death in Sarajevo".
And Filipino director Lav Diaz won the Alfred Bauer Prize for "a feature film that opens new perspectives", for his eight-hour epic "A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery".
In announcing the Golden Bear, jury president Meryl Streep described "Fire At Sea" ("Fuocommare") as "urgent, imaginative and necessary filmmaking."
The film takes place on the Italian island of Lampadusa, which for years has been the first target for people leaving Africa en route to the European mainland, hundreds of whom die at sea in the attempt.
Rosi first thanked the festival for having the courage to include a documentary alongside feature films in the line-up. “That was an enormous victory for me already,” he told the audience in the Berlinale Palast.
He then dedicated his award to the people of Lampadusa, who “open their hearts” to those refugees who survive their precarious journey and make it to the island.
The full list of Berlin awards:
Golden Bear for Best Film: "Fire At Sea"
Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize: "Death in Sarajevo", Danis Tanovic
Silver Bear for Best Director: Mia Hansen-Løve, "L'Avenir"
Silver Bear for Best Actor: "Majd Mastoura, "Hedi"
Silver Bear for Best Actress: Trine Dyrholm, "The Commune"
Silver Bear for Best Script: Tomasz Wasilewski, "United States of Love"
Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize: "A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery", Lav Diaz
Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution: Mark Lee Ping-Bing, cinematographer, "Crosscurrent"