An Iranian drama about a couple whose marriage disintegrates swept three awards at the Berlin Film Festival.
“Nader and Simin, A Separation” won the Golden Bear award for the best film, and two Silver Bears for the cast on Feb. 19. Sarina Farhadi, Sareh Bayat, Leila Hatami and Merila Zerei shared the award for best actress for their roles. Babak Karimi, Peyman Moadi and Ali-Asghar Shahbazi shared the best actor Silver Bear.
The movie, one of 16 in competition at the film festival, tells the story of a woman who wants to leave Iran with her husband and daughter. Her husband decides against emigrating because of his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The wife files for divorce at a family court.
“I thought it might be too much of an Iranian film, that the communication to the outside world might be difficult,” director Asghar Farhadi said at a news conference after the award ceremony. “Obviously, that is not the case. It’s a portrait of our country, an image that doesn’t come over in the media.”
A six-member jury, led by Isabella Rossellini, picked the winning movies. A seventh member, Iranian director Jafar Panahi, was jailed in Iran shortly after accepting his seat on the jury and was represented at the festival by an empty chair.
“I spoke to him on the phone before I came to Berlin,” said Farhadi, whose film “About Elly” won a Silver Bear award in 2009. “It is very regrettable that he cannot do his work. I hope very much that we are here, talking together, next year. It would be very bad if he could not be here next year.”
The Silver Bear award for best director went to Ulrich Koehler for his film “Sleeping Sickness,” about a German doctor working in development in Cameroon who finds himself unable to leave Africa to return home with his wife and daughter when the time comes.
A Silver Bear runner-up award went to “The Turin Horse” by veteran Hungarian director Bela Tarr, telling the story of demented philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a horse and a hansom driver.
A Silver Bear for best script went to Joshua Marston and Andamion Murataj for “Forgiveness of Blood,” an Albanian language film about a family paralyzed and isolated by a blood feud with neighbors after a man is killed in a fight over a piece of land.
The Argentine movie “The Prize,” which explores the impact of dictatorship on a young girl living in hiding with her mother, won awards for production and camerawork.
Andres Veiel’s first feature film “If Not Us, Who,” dealing with the origins of German terror group the Baader-Meinhof gang, won a prize for innovative film-making.
For more information on the Berlin Film Festival, go to http://www.berlinale.de/en.
(Catherine Hickley is a writer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are her own.)