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Berlin Film Festival 2019: Nadav Lapid’s ‘Synonyms’ Wins Golden Bear

Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s “Synonyms,” about a young Israeli man in Paris who has turned his back on his native country, won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale on Saturday.

The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to François Ozon’s French drama “By the Grace of God,” a fact-based account of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal behind the ongoing trial of Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon.

Accepting the award, Lapid said “Synonyms,” which stars Tom Mercier, would likely be considered “scandalous” in Israel and France – the pic skewers stereotypes from both nations – but added that it was ultimately a celebration.

In his review in Variety, Jay Weissberg wrote that the film takes “a Kalashnikov to the nation’s military culture and its carefully nurtured persecution complex.”

Thanking the Berlinale for selecting his film, Ozon said he did not know whether addressing child sexual abuse in film could really make a difference, but added that it was certainly worth the effort.

German filmmaker Angela Schanelec won best director for her drama about a troubled family, ”I Was at Home, But.”

In another win for a German film, the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize went to Nora Fingscheidt’s “System Crasher,” about a disturbed young girl who yearns to be with her mother as she falls through Germany’s child welfare system.

The six-person festival jury, headed by French actress Juliette Binoche, awarded the best actor and actress Silver Bears to the stars of Wang Xiaoshuai’s Chinese drama “So Long, My Son,” Wang Jingchun and Yong Mei, respectively.

Maurizio Braucci, Claudio Giovannesi and Roberto Saviano won best screenplay for their examination of troubled youth in “Piranhas.”

Receiving the Silver Bear, Giovannesi, who also directed, dedicated the award to the young people of Naples and to Italy, saying he hoped that “art, culture and eduction will once again become a priority in the country.”

The Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution went to Danish cinematographer Rasmus Videbæk for his work on Hans Petter Moland’s Scandinavian title “Out Stealing Horses.”

Suhaib Gasmelbari took the Berlinale Glashütte Original – Documentary Award for “Talking About Trees,” which chronicles the efforts of a group of film enthusiasts to revive an old cinema in Sudan.

Mehmet Akif Büyükatalay won Best First Feature for “Oray,” a German film about a young Muslim man in Cologne struggling with religion and marriage.

The awards ceremony marked the end of Dieter Kosslick’s career as Berlinale director after 18 years. In an emotional farewell, Kosslick received a standing ovation at the start of the ceremony, held at the Berlinale Palast.

Kosslick then introduced the Berlinale’s new co-chiefs, Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, who officially take the helm in June.

Saturday’s ceremony began just hours after the first news reports of the death of Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, who was commemorated at the ceremony.

“We think about those who can’t be here tonight. Bruno Ganz is in the sky over Berlin,” said host Anke Engelke in a nod to one of Ganz’s most beloved films, “Wings of Desire.” Wim Wenders’ 1987 classic is known in German as “Der Himmel über Berlin,” or “The Sky Over Berlin.”

This year’s festival was marred by the cancellation of Zhang Yimou’s “One Second,” a drama set during China’s Cultural Revolution, due to a “technical reasons,” which reduced the number of competition titles to 16.

Speaking for the jury, Binoche expressed regret at not being able to see the it, adding, “We hope to see the film soon in cinemas.”

Some 400 films unspooled in all of the festival’s various sections this year. With approximately half a million admissions and more than 300,000 tickets sold, the Berlinale is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world.

See the full list of winners below.

Golden Bear for Best Film: “Synonyms,” Nadav Lapid

Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize: “By the Grace of God,” François Ozon

Silver Bear for Best Director: Angela Schanelec, “I Was at Home, But”

Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize: Nora Fingscheidt’s “System Crasher”

Silver Bear for Best Actress: Yong Mei, “So Long, My Son”

Silver Bear for Best Actor: Wang Jingchun, “So Long, My Son”

Silver Bear for Best Screenplay: “Piranhas,” Maurizio Braucci, Claudio Giovannesi and Roberto Saviano

Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution, Costume or Set Design: “Out Stealing Horses,” Rasmus Videbæk

Berlinale Glashütte Original – Documentary Prize: “Talking About Trees,” Suhaib Gasmelbari

Best First Feature: “Oray,” Mehmet Akif Büyükatalay

Golden Bear for Best Short Film: “Umbra,” Florian Fischer and Johannes Krell

Silver Bear for Short Film Jury Prize: “Blue Boy,” Manuel Abramovich

Audi Short Film Award: “Rise,” Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca

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