Dissident Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof on Saturday won the top prize at the Berlin film festival for There Is No Evil, a searingly critical work about the death penalty in his country.
Rasoulof, 48, is banned from leaving Iran and was unable to accept the Golden Bear in person.
Accepting the award on his behalf, producer Farzad Pak thanked “the amazing cast and crew who put their lives in danger to be on this film.”
The film tells four loosely related stories about the death penalty in Iran, from the executioner to the families of the victims.
Industry magazine Variety called it Rasoulof’s “most openly critical statement yet.”
Rasoulof was last year sentenced to a year in prison for “attacking the security of the state” and banned from making films for life.
Speaking to a news conference via telephone, he said that his latest film was about “taking responsibility” under despotism.
“You can try to put aside your own responsibility and pass the buck to the government ... but [people] can say no,” he said.
The runner-up jury prize went to Eliza Hittman’s teenage abortion drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always, which had been a favorite among critics.
Sidney Flanigan plays a 17-year-old from Pennsylvania forced to travel to New York to abort an unplanned pregnancy.
Audiences and critics were particularly enthralled by an intense, single-shot scene in which Flanigan’s character answers personal questions at a clinic.
Paula Beer won Best Actress for her role in Christian Petzold’s water-themed romance Undine.
The award for Best Actor went to Italy’s Elio Germano for his portrayal of the mental and physical struggles of painter Antonio Ligabue in Hidden Away.
Germano also featured in Bad Tales by Italian brothers Fabio and Damiano D’Innocenzo, which won Best Screenplay.
The award for Best Director went to South Korea’s Hong Sangsoo for The Woman Who Ran, a minimalistic film about a woman whose husband is away on a business trip.
Industry Web site IndieWire described the film as a “charming look at smart women dealing with annoying men.”
Delete History, a French comedy about society in the age of the Internet, won the “70th anniversary Silver Bear.”
The prize replaced the traditional “Alfred Bauer Prize” after it emerged that Berlinale founding director Bauer was a high-ranking Nazi.
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