The Golden Bear goes to Jafar Panahi, a dissident Iranian filmmaker whose submission “Taxi” was filmed covertly. Renowned directors leave empty-handed, as several awards go to young talents from small countries
The crowd burst into cheers as the Golden Bear – top award of 65th Berlin Film Festival – was awarded to “Taxi” by Jafar Panahi. After all, the film would have never even been made had the director followed the Iranian government’s orders.
But the film-maker wasn’t allowed to travel from Tehran to pick up the award because of Iranian government restrictions. His 11-year-old niece, who also plays in the film, took the Golden Bear for him, moved to tears.
The dissident filmmaker received a 20-year work and travel ban in 2010. Panahi has not leave Iran since.
Fortunately, Panahi has kept on making films. Since the ban was imposed, he has delivered three features which were screened at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals. “This Is No Film” and “Closed Curtain” tell about the oppression of his house arrest. “Taxi” goes out in the city to talk with the people.
In the film, the clever filmmaker plays the role of a taxi driver who captures the spirit of Iranian society in his chats with passengers.. Small inconspicuous cameras collect the impressions of a variety of passengers, from a bootlegger, a victim of an accident, to a lawyer.
The taxi becomes the setting of a series of tragic, dramatic, funny and exciting scenes. Along the way, the film masterfully manages to criticize society, too.
“Taxi” was already an undisputed favorite among the festival’s public this year. The jury headed by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky was also won over by the film. Once again, the Berlin film festival meets up to its reputation of being a particularly political festival.
Small countries, grand movies
The 65th Berlinale awarded directors from small countries, whereas renowned film directors such as the US legend Terrence Malick, the Spanish Isable Coixet, the British Peter Greenaway and the Germans Andreas Dresen and Werner Herzog were left empty-handed.
The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to “El Club” (“The Club”) by Chilean director Pablo Larraín, while the film “45 Years” nabbed both acting awards for Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling. Courtenay joked that it took him 30 years to catch up to his friend Albert Finney, who won the same prize for “The Dresser” in 1984.
In an interesting twist, the Silver Bear for script was won by the documentary “El botón de nácar” (“The Pearl Button”) from Chilean writer-director Patricio Guzmán.
Other awards given during the ceremony on Saturday, February 14, 2015, also reflect this image. The Alfred Bauer Prize, which is awarded for perspectives in the art of filmmaking, went to “Ixcanul” by Jayro Bustamante, the first Guatemalan film to be entered in the Berlinale. It tells the story of a Mayan girl who is about to get married but who longs to explore the world beyond the mountains. Jayro Bustamante, who grew up in the region of the Kaqchikel Maya, offers a very intimate perspective on the local culture.
One of the Best Director prizes went to Polish film-maker Malgorzata Szumowska for the Yoga film ‘Body’. “I was completely shocked in the good sense and it is rare for the Polish cimena to get the price in the Berlinale Film Festival,” said Szumowska.