“Caesar Must Die,” a documentary about inmates in an Italian prison staging Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” last night won the Golden Bear award for the best movie at the Berlin Film Festival.
Directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, the film features prisoners from the Roman maximum security prison Rebibbia, many of them serving time for Mafia-related crimes. In accepting the prize, Vittorio Taviani named the prisoners who featured in the film and greeted them “in the solitude of their cells.”
“Among the inmates were a lot who had got life sentences, serious criminals,” Taviani said. “This play was a kind of liberation for them.”
The Berlin Film Festival sold more than 300,000 tickets as almost 400 movies were shown over the 10-day event. Among the stars who flew in were Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep, who won a lifetime achievement award. Winning a prize in Berlin, which considers itself the second most important film festival in the world after Cannes, can raise a movie’s profile and help it to get broader international release.
“Just the Wind,” a Hungarian film directed by Bence Fliegauf, won the Silver Bear runner-up prize. The fear-packed drama shows a day in the life of a Roma family after a fatal racist hate-crime attack on their neighbors. The movie is based on real events: Between 2008 and 2009, 16 Roma homes in Hungary were attacked with Molotov cocktails, shotguns and rifles. Six people died and criminal proceedings are continuing.
Christian Petzold won the Silver Bear award for best director for “Barbara,” the story of an East German doctor who has applied to leave the country. After being arrested, she is transferred as punishment from Berlin to the provinces where she plans her escape with a lover from the west.
The Silver Bear for best actor went to Mikkel Boe Foelsgaard for his role in “A Royal Affair.” The movie also won the Silver Bear for best script. Written by director Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg, it captures a period of Danish 18th-century history in which a physician wins the mad king’s confidence and pushes through progressive reforms that anger the nobility and the wealthy.
Rachel Mwanza won the Silver Bear for best actress for her role in “War Witch,” the grimly powerful tale of a young girl recruited as a soldier by rebels fighting the government in an African civil war. Mwanza, an amateur, said the film and her prize present “the opportunity of a lifetime.”
“Tabu,” a black-and-white movie about the life of a headstrong, difficult woman by the Portuguese director Miguel Gomes, won the Alfred Bauer Prize for particular innovation.
A “special mention” Silver Bear went to “Sister,” directed by Ursula Meier. Set in the Swiss Alps and starring Kacey Mottet Klein and Lea Seydoux, the movie contrasts the wealthy skiers at a resort with those eking out an existence by the main road below.
The eight-member international jury selecting the winners was led by Mike Leigh and included actors Charlotte Gainsbourg and Jake Gyllenhaal.
For more information, go to http://www.berlinale.de/en/
(Catherine Hickley writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)