Tunisia wins Best First Feature Award at Berlin Film Fest
BERLIN - “Inhebbek Hedi” (Hedi) by Tunisian director and scriptwriter Mohamed Ben Attia was announced winner of the Best First Feature Award at the Berlin film festival Saturday.
Majd Mastoura won the Silver Bear for best actor for his role in "Hedi", a love story set in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
"I give this gift to the great Tunisian people, all the martyrs of the revolution, everyone who contributed to the revolution," he said.
"I hope we will continue on being free, being happy, producing good art."
The awards were announced at the Closing Gala which took place on 20 February at the Berlinale Palast.
The Best Feature Award is one of the major awards of the Berlin International Film Festival.
Starring Majd Mastoura, Rym Ben Messaoud, Sabah Bouzouita, Hakim Boumessoudi and Omnia Ben Ghali, the film follows a young man named Hedi, who is indifferent to everything around him as his authoritarian mother arranges his marriage to Khedija.
While the wedding preparations are underway, he meets Reem. Finding himself in love, he is forced to make choices.
Born in 1976 in Tunis (Tunisia), Mohamed Ben Attia studied Audiovisual Communication at the University of Valenciennes in France. He directed several short films. “Inhebbek Hedi” is his first feature film.
Italian director Gianfranco Rosi's "Fire at Sea", a harrowing documentary about Europe's refugee crisis, clinched the Berlin film festival's Golden Bear top prize from a jury led by Meryl Streep.
As Europe grapples with its biggest migrant influx since World War II, the picture offers an unflinching look at life on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, where thousands of asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East have arrived trying to reach the European Union over the last two decades.
Thousands more have perished on the dangerous journey in rickety, overcrowded boats.
The Eritrean-born Rosi, who spent several months on Italy's Lampedusa making the film, dedicated the prize to its residents "who open their hearts to other peoples".
"I hope to bring awareness," he said as he accepted the trophy from Streep.
"It is not acceptable that people die crossing the sea trying to escape from tragedies."
The picture is told through the eyes of a 12-year-old local boy, Samuele Pucillo, and a doctor, Pietro Bartolo, who has been tending to the dehydrated, malnourished and traumatised new arrivals for a quarter-century.
In chilling footage, Rosi accompanied coastguard rescue missions answering the terrified SOS calls of people on boats, most of them arriving from Libya. Many of the vessels are packed with corpses of people who suffocated from diesel fumes.
Three-time Oscar-winner Streep said her seven-member jury was "swept away" by "Fire at Sea", which she called "urgent, imaginative and necessary filmmaking".
"It's a daring hybrid of captured footage and deliberate storytelling that allows us to consider what documentary can do," she said.
"It demands its place in front of our eyes and compels our engagement and action."
The Golden Bear for "Fire at Sea" comes after the Cannes film festival last May awarded its Palme d'Or to "Dheepan", a drama about Sri Lankan refugees living on the violent outskirts of Paris.
Rosi said when his film premiered that Europe's refugee crisis marked one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes since the Holocaust.
He told reporters after the awards ceremony that he would aim to show the film to the people of Lampedusa in an open-air screening in the spring.
The festival, now in its 66th year, had placed a special spotlight on the refugee issue, after Germany let in more than 1.1 million asylum seekers last year, with nearly 80,000 arriving in Berlin.
Donations boxes to support charities helping torture survivors were placed at cinema venues, and festival internships and free tickets were reserved for migrants.
George Clooney, whose "Hail, Caesar!" opened the event, even met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel with his wife Amal "to talk about how best we can help".
In other prizes, France's Mia Hansen-Love won the Silver Bear for best director for her drama "Things to Come" starring Isabelle Huppert as a philosophy teacher whose marriage falls apart just as her elderly mother dies.
The Silver Bear for best actress went to Denmark's Trine Dyrholm for her role as a wronged wife in Thomas Vinterberg's "The Commune", a semi-autobiographical take on his 1970s childhood.
Oscar-winning Bosnian director Danis Tanovic took the runner-up Grand Jury Prize among 18 contenders for "Death in Sarajevo" about the corrosive legacy of the 1990s Balkan wars.
A more than eight-hour-long historical epic by Filipino director Lav Diaz, "A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery", claimed the Alfred Bauer Prize for a feature film that opens new perspectives in cinema.
Best screenplay went to Polish filmmaker Tomasz Wasilewski, his portrait of the pivotal 1989-90 period in his country as told through four women, played by some of Poland's best-known theatre actresses, at crossroads in their lives.
Last year's Golden Bear went to Iranian dissident director Jafar Panahi's innovative "Taxi", which he was forced to make in secret behind the wheel of a cab.