Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s Nader and Simina: A Separation, a drama that centers on a disintegrating marriage, won the best movie honor and swept the acting awards at the Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday.
A six-member jury led by actress Isabella Rossellini handed the movie the top Golden Bear prize and its ensemble cast, led by Peyman Moadi and Leila Hatami, both the best actor and the best actress awards.
“I never would have thought that I would win this prize,” Farhadi said as he collected the Golden Bear.
He added that it offers “a very good opportunity to think of the people of my country — the country I grew up in, the country where I learned my stories — a great people.”
The film highlights a clash between traditional and modern ways of living and thinking, as well as class differences.
It chronicles the events that follow a wife’s unsuccessful petition for a divorce, which she seeks when her husband refuses to leave Iran with her and her daughter. He worries about leaving behind his father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.
The wife then moves out and the man hires a pregnant, pious young woman who agrees to take care of his father, without telling her husband. One afternoon, a blazing argument is followed by the woman suffering a miscarriage — setting off a chain of events that shakes the family.
Iran has been in the spotlight at the Berlin festival because the jury’s official seventh member, Iranian director Jafar Panahi, was unable to come after being sentenced to six years in jail on charges of working against the ruling system.
“I would like to recall Jafar Panahi — I really think his problem will be solved, and I would like him to stand here next year,” said Farhadi, speaking through an interpreter.
Farhadi was honored as best director in Berlin two years ago for his previous movie, About Elly.
This year’s best director honor went to Germany’s Ulrich Koehler for Sleeping Sickness, a film about an aid worker long based in Africa and his increasingly alienated wife.
Hungarian director Bela Tarr’s starkly minimalist, black-and-white The Turin Horse, the story of a farmer and his horse, won a runner-up Silver Bear.
Tarr, a veteran art house filmmaker, insisted that it would be his last movie. “I believe that, in this film, everything comes together,” he said after the award ceremony.
Argentina-born first-time director Paula Markovitch’s The Prize, an autobiographical film set in Argentina during the military dictatorship of the 1970s, won two prizes for outstanding artistic achievement.
They went to Wojciech Staron for his camerawork and Barbara Enriquez for the production design.
American director Joshua Marston and co-scriptwriter Andamion Murataj took the best script award for The Forgiveness of Blood, a drama set in Albania.
The festival’s Alfred Bauer prize for innovation went to German director Andres Veiel’s If Not Us, Who, a movie about the early years of some of the far-left Red Army Faction’s leading figures.
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Berlin film festival prize winners
Following are the main award winners:
BEST FILM (Golden Bear) :Nader and Simin: A Separation, directed by Asghar Farhadi
JURY GRAND PRIX runner-up prize (Silver Bear): The Turin Horse, directed by Bela Tarr
BEST DIRECTOR (Silver Bear): Ulrich Koehler for Sleeping Sickness