Banned Iranian Director Jafar Panahi Wins Berlin Festival's Top Award

Andrew McCathie
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Aronofsky looks on as the niece of Iranian director Jafar Panahi holds the Golden Bear trophy she accepted on his behalf. Berlin, February 14, 2015.Credit: AFP
Andrew McCathie

DPA - Iranian director Jafar Panahi won the Berlin Film Festival's top prize on Saturday for his movie Taxi after defying a ban on filmmaking in his native country to make and smuggle the film to the Berlinale.

But Panahi was not on hand in Berlin to receive the Berlinale's Golden Bear for best motion picture. Along with a 20-year-ban on filmmaking, the 54-old director is not allowed to leave Iran.

Instead, the award was accepted by Panahi's young niece, Hana, who also appeared in the film, in which Panahi turned himself into a taxi driver, filming an often humorous and a diverse range of passengers to produce a vibrant cinematic portrait of the Iranian capital.

"He has created a love letter to cinema," said U.S. director Darren Aronofsky, who headed the festival's seven-member jury.

Panahi's wife also attended Saturday's ceremony. However, Hana was to overcome with emotion to speak at ceremony.

Taxi was one of 19 films vying for top honors at the Berlinale, which is considered by most to be one of the world's most prestigious three film festivals, along with Cannes and Venice.

"It was an incredible collection and so was an incredibly hard decision," said Aronofsky. "But the jury agreed together on the prizes."

Pablo Lorrain's disturbing The Club, about how the Catholic Church provided shelter to four paedophile priests, won the festival's Jury Grand Prix, considered the festival's second most prestigious award after the Golden Bear.

Polish filmmaker Malgorzata Szumowska and Romanian director Radu Jude both won Silver Bears for best director in a double win for Central European cinema.

Bucharest-born director Radu Jude's Aferim! is a western set in 19th century Romania, while Szumowska movie Body is an exploration of death and mourning.

Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for a feature film that opens new perspectives was awarded to Jayro Bustamante for Ixcanul. Set at the foot of a volcano, Bustamante's coming-of-age drama became the first Guatamalan film to screen in the Berlinale's main competition in its 65-year history.

"Thank you for opening your door to our country," said Maria Mercedes Coroy, who played the 17-year-old Maria in the film.

The two leading actors from British director Andrew Haigh's story about a marriage in crisis win the Berlin Film Festival's best acting awards.

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courney won the Silver Bears for their roles in 45 Years as a couple about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary but whose relationship comes under pressure after the body of the husband's first love is found 50 years after she plunged to her death in the Alps.

The jury also awarded Silver Bears for artistic achievement awards for cinematography both to German director Sebastian Schipper's Berlin bank heist thriller Victoria and a movie from Russian filmmaker Aleksey German.

Set 100 years after the Russian revolution in 2017, German's movie Under Electric Clouds is a bleak sci-fi drama as Russia prepares to launch into a new era of turmoil.

The Silver Bear for best script went to director-writer Patricio Guzman for The Pearl Button, which added to the long line of Chilean films dealing with the Pinochet dictatorship.

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