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On Body and Soul wins Golden Bear Award at Berlin Film Festival (2017)

On Body and Soul

Story by Jack Foley

HUNGARIAN romantic dramedy On Body and Soul has won The Golden Bear Award, the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

An idiosyncratic love story about two lonely slaughterhouse employees who go to absurd lengths in their pursuit of one another, the film also picked up a trio of awards from Berlin’s independent juries, including the best film honour from the association of international film critics (FIPRESCI).

The film was directed by Ildiko Enyedi, who previously won Cannes’ Camera d’Or prize for best first feature, for My Twentieth Century, way back in 1989.

The win did, though, come as a surprise, meaning that veteran Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki, who many had tipped for the top prize this year, was left to take home the Silver Bear for best director for his film, The Other Side of Hope, a heart-warming tale of a Syrian refugee who travels to Finland to seek asylum.

As if to emphasise the shock of missing out, Kaurismaki did not make it to the stage, but accepted his trophy from his seat.

And another of the festival’s big tips, Agnieszka Holland’s Polish murder mystery Spoor, had to make do with the Alfred Bauer Prize, named after the founder of the Berlin Film Festival, which honours the best European title in competition.

The Jury Prize went to Alain Gomis’ Felicite, a raw and realistic portrait of a singer in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In keeping with the surprise factor of the closing awards ceremony, the Berlin international jury, headed by Paul Verhoeven, also opted for unexpected choices for best actor and actress.

Going into the ceremony, newcomer Daniela Vega, the transgender star of Sebastian Lelio’s Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman, had looked to be a certainty for the best actress Silver Bear. But the prize went instead to Kim Min-hee for her role as a talented actress taking a break from her screen career to pursue an affair with an older, married filmmaker in On The Beach at Night Alone from South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo.

And The Silver Bear for best actor went to Germany’s Georg Friedrich for Bright Nights, in which he plays an emotionally closed-off father taking his sullen teenage son on a road trip to Norway.

That prize meant that the likes of Steve Coogan (for Oren Moverman’s The Dinner), Mircea Postelnicu (for Calin Peter Netzer’s Ana, mon Amour) and Sherwan Haji (as the refugee in Kaurismaki’s The Other Side of Hope) were snubbed.

Other prizes went to A Fantastic Woman, which took home the Silver Bear for best screenplay, for writers Sebastian Lelio and Gonzalo Maza, and to Ana, Mon Amour, which claimed the Silver Bear for extraordinary artistic achievement (for editor Dana Bunescu).

The inaugural Glashutte Original Documentary Award went to Ghost Hunting from Palestinian director Raed Andoni. The film recreates a notorious Israeli interrogation centre and examines the rarely-documented trauma experienced by former Palestinian prisoners.

Two final accolades were bestowed upon Carla Simon’s Summer 1993, which took the best first feature award, and to Diogo Costa Amarante’s Cidade Pequena, which won the Golden Bear for best short film.

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