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Berlin Film Festival: Mati Diop Wins Golden Bear With Documentary ‘Dahomey,’ Emily Watson And Sebastian Stan Take Acting Honors

Winners have been announced at the 74th Berlin Film Festival, with Dahomey by French-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop scooping the coveted Golden Bear for best film. Scroll down for the full list of winners, which were revealed Saturday evening at the Berlinale Palast.

The doc borrows its name from the former West African kingdom of Dahomey, located in the south of today’s Republic of Benin. It was founded in the 17th century by King Houegbadja. Under his reign and that of his descendants — a three-century dynasty — the kingdom was a considerable regional power, with a highly structured local economy, a centralized administration, a system of taxes, and a powerful army, including the famous Amazon women (Agodjié).

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Diop’s doc opens in November 2021 as twenty-six royal treasures from the former Kingdom are about to leave Paris to return to their country of origin. Along with thousands of others, these artifacts were plundered by French colonial troops in 1892. But what do these ancient treasures mean in a country that has had to forge a new existence in their absence? The film’s full synopsis reads: While the soul of the artifacts is freed, debate rages among students of the University of Abomey-Calavi. Dahomey is Diop’s first feature since 2019’s Atlantics, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes and was distributed worldwide by Netflix.

RELATED: ‘Dahomey’ Review: Mati Diop’s Audacious Doc Offers A Provocative View Of Modern Africa – Berlin Film Festival

Other winners in the International Competition included German filmmaker Matthias Glasner, who won best screenplay for Dying, Martin Gschlacht nabbed the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution for his DoP work on The Devil’s Bath by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, and Nelson Carlos De Los Santos Arias won best director for Pepe. 

Berlin introduced gender-neutral acting awards in 2021, and the winner of this year’s Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance went to Emily Watson for festival opener Small Things Like These, and Best Leading Performance went to Sebastian Stan for A Different Man.

RELATED: ‘Small Things Like These’ Review: Cillian Murphy Plays A Father In Torment In ’80s-Set Irish Trauma Tale – Berlin Film Festival Opening-Night Movie

The run-up to this year’s Berlinale was highly politicized, and tonight’s closing ceremony was no different, with multiple winning filmmakers and jury members, including American filmmaker Eliza Hittman, using their time on stage to call for a ceasefire in fighting in Gaza. However, Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek’s final edition in charge was, for the most part, fairly conventional. There were no real scandals or divisive talking points. For the most part, audiences have been focused on the films, which have been a mixed bag. Diop’s Dahomey was a favorite on the ground. Deadline’s Stephanie Bunbury described the film as a “marvelous provocation” while Damon Wise described Victor Kossakovsky’s Architection, another favorite, as “fascinating, magnetic.”  Check out Deadline’s festival reviews here.

RELATED: ‘Dying’ Review: Lars Eidinger Carries The Weight Of Matthias Glasner’s Deep And Darkly Funny Family Drama

Away from the competition, on Wednesday, Martin Scorsese rolled into town to receive the festival’s Honorary Golden Bear. Scorsese was handed the award by German filmmaker Wim Wenders, who described him as “the reigning king of cinema.” Scorsese’s remarks during the ceremony — which you can check out here — were brief. We also spoke exclusively with the filmmaker before his Berlin bow, and you can read that here. On the business side, the European Film Market was piping hot. High-profile deals included our scoop that Sony pounced on After Yang filmmaker Kogonada’s next feature starring Margot Robbie and Colin Farrell in a $50 million deal. We also revealed the studio locked international on Past Lives filmmaker Celine Song’s follow-up Materialists. Dakota Johnson, Pedro Pascal, and Chris Evans are said to be in talks to star.

Before this evening’s opening ceremony, the festival announced the winners from this year’s Panorama sidebar. The Panorama Audience Award for the best feature film was picked up by Memorias de un cuerpo que arde (Memories of a Burning Body) by Antonella Sudasassi Furniss. At the same time, No Other Land by Basel Adra, Hamdan Ballal, Yuval Abraham, and Rachel Szor won the Panorama Dokumente award. This year, Panorama presented a total of 31 titles from 36 production countries, ten of them were in Panorama Dokumente. Elsewhere, the Panorama Jury awarded the CICAE Arthouse Cinema Award to the Norwegian film Sex, directed by Dag Johan Haugerud, and the Forum Jury handed the German film Shahid, directed by Narges Kalhor, with the CICAE Arthouse Cinema Award.

Check out the list of winners below:

Prizes of the International Jury

Golden Bear Dahomey by Mati Diop

Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize — A Traveler’s Needs by Hong Sangsoo

Silver Bear — The Empire by Bruno Dumont

Best Leading Performance — Sebastian Stan for A Different Man

Best Supporting Performance — Emily Watson for Small Things Like These

Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution — Martin Gschlacht for the cinematography in The Devil’s Bath (Des Teufels Bad) by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala

Best Director — Nelson Carlos De Los Santos Arias for Pepe

Silver Bear for Best Screenplay — Matthias Glasner for Sterben (Dying)

Encounters Jury

Best FilmDirect Action by Guillaume Cailleau and Ben Russell

Special Jury PrizeSome Rain Must Fall by Qiu Yang and The Great Yawn of History (Khamyazeye bozorg) by Aliyar Rasti

Best Director — Juliana Rojas for Cidade; Campo

GWFF Best First Feature Award

GFF First Feature Award — Cu Li Never Cries (Cu Li Không Bao Giờ Khóc ) by Phạm Ngọc Lân

Berlinale Documentary Award

No Other Land by Basel Adra, Hamdan Ballal, Yuval Abraham, and Rachel Szor.

Special MentionDirect Action by Guillaume Cailleau and Ben Russell

Shorts

Golden Bear Best Short Film – An Odd Turn (Un movimiento extraño) by Francisco Lezama

Silver Bear Jury Prize (Short Film) — Remains of the Hot Day (Re tian wu hou) by Wenqian Zhang

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