It is a well-known fact that bears are attracted to honey. But at the 60th Berlinale it was the film festival’s jury, whose members included Werner Herzog and Renée Zellweger, who could not stay away from the sweet stuff. Following Yumurta (Eggs, 2007) and Süt (Milk, 2008), Turkish director Semih Kaplanoglu completed his autobiographical Yusuf Trilogy with Bal (Honey, 2018), which was awarded the coveted Golden Bear at a ceremony on Saturday 21 February.
Set in rural Anatolia, Bal is a simple family story, told through the eyes of schoolboy Yusuf, whose father is a beekeeper. When a bee disease threatens their livelihood, his father moves the hives to a remote area in the mountains. When he fails to return home one day, Yusuf goes in search of him.
Silver Bear Winner Florin Serban
The Silver Bear – Grand Jury Prize went to Romanian filmmaker Florin Serban for his feature film debut If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle, a gritty drama set in a juvenile prison. The film also won the Alfred Bauer Prize for cinematic innovation.
Best Director Award for Roman Polanski
The Silver Bear for Best Director was bestowed on Roman Polanski for his thriller The Ghost Writer. The political thriller stars Pierce Brosnan as a former British prime minister and Ewan McGregor as the ghost writer assigned to finishing his memories, after his predecessor’s mysterious death.
Polanski was unable to attend the awards ceremony himself but sent a message through one of the film’s producers, saying, “Even if I could be there I wouldn’t, because the last time I went to a festival to get a prize, I ended up in jail.”
He was referring to his arrest in Switzerland last September when he traveled to Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award. His arrest was in connection with a conviction dating from 1977, when he admitted to having unlawful sex with a minor in the US. He fled the country to avoid a long jail sentence, and lived in exile in Paris for the next three decades. He is currently waiting to hear whether he will be extradited to the US.
Polanski’s arrest has certainly not harmed The Ghost Writer’s exposure, but some have criticized his win as more of an act of solidarity than a reflection of the film’s merit.
How I Ended This Summer Double Winner
The Berlinale’s big winner was How I Ended This Summer. The claustrophobic Russian drama’s leading men, Grigory Dobrygin and Sergei Puskepalis, won a joint Silver Bear for Best Actor.
The film’s director, Alexei Popogrebskiy, who attended the Berlinale in 2004 with his drama Koktebel, also won the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Achievement.