The 71st Berlinale revealed its winners on Friday 5th March 2021 after a five day virtual festival. The jury for the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival was made up of six previous Golden Bear winners, including 2020 winner Mohammad Rasoulof. Joining him were Nadav Lapid, Adina Pintilie, Ildiko Enyedi, Gianfranco Rosi and Jasmila Zbanic. Pintilie, Enyedi, Rosi and Zbanic were all able to see the films in person, socially distanced, at a cinema in Berlin. Lapid watched the films from his home in Israel, while Rasoulof was unable to attend due to being controversially placed under house arrest by the Iranian government for the content of his films.
Taking the top prize, the coveted Golden Bear for Best Film, was Romanian drama/comedy Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn. Written and directed by Radu Jude, the story follows a school teacher, Emi, whose sex tape leaks online. When she is confronted by the parents demanding her dismissal, Emi refuses to give in to their pressure. The film is unconventional in form and humour, and offers a scathing commentary on hypocrisy and prejudice in modern society. The film was shot during the COVID lockdown last summer, with characters wearing masks and observing social distancing. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn joins a prestigious list of previous winners such as The Thin Red Line, Spirited Away, 12 Angry Men and Fire At Sea.
In a statement, the jury described Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn as having “that rare and essential quality of a lasting art work,” adding that Jude “captures on screen the very content and essence, the mind and body, the values and the raw flesh of our present moment in time.” The film provokes the spirit of our time “by slapping it, by challenging it to a duel.” Simultaneously, the jury credit the film for challenging” this present moment in cinema, shaking, with the same camera movement, our social and our cinematic conventions.” They summarise the feature as “an elaborated film as well as a wild one, clever and childish, geometrical and vibrant, imprecise in the best way.” Following the announcement, the Berlinale YouTube channel uploaded a conversation with Jude and producer Ada Solomon, which can be viewed here. The trailer for the film can be seen here.
The Silver Bear for Best Directing was awarded to Dénes Nagy for World War II drama Natural Light. This is Nagy’s feature length debut, making him the first director this century to win the award with their first film (excluding Mat Whitecross in 2006 who co-directed The Road to Guantánamo alongside established director Michael Winterbottom). The jury praised the film as “Appalling and beautifully shot, mesmerising images, remarkable direction and a masterful control of every aspect of the craft of filmmaking… a portrait of war in which the observant gaze of the director reminds us again of the need to choose between passivity and taking individual responsibility.” In Nagy’s acceptance speech, he thanked his cast especially, saying “It has been a singular experience to get to know them, earning their trust and winning their desire to participate.”
This year marked the first time the festival did not gender the acting awards, instead handing out a singular award for lead performance and another for supporting role. The Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance went to Maren Eggert for her role as a scientist who is tasked to live with a humanoid robot for three weeks in I’m Your Man. Eggert “created a memorable character that we can identify with,” said the jury, “leading us to think about our presence and our future, our relations and what we really want for ourselves.” The German sci-fi comedy also stars English actor Dan Stevens, known for his work in Beauty and The Beast and The Guest.
In addition to the main competition prizes, the Encounters prizes were also announced. These were set up in 2020 with the aim of supporting new voices in cinema, allowing more room for diverse narrative and documentary forms in the official programme. Earning the top prize was Alice Diop’s We. The documentary follows a series of encounters on a rail line crossing from north to south Paris and beyond. We is a film that “shows true delicacy and sensitivity,” according to the jury.
While 2021 marked a strange year for the festival, the organisers intend to hold an event in June where the winners and other films will be screened to the public. The festival is hopeful that current restrictions will have lifted by then so that they can hold red carpet galas for the filmmakers.
The full list of 2021 Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) winners:
Golden Bear For Best Film
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn – dir. Radu Jude
Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize
Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy – dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Silver Bear Jury Prize
Mr Bachmann and His Class – dir. Maria Speth
Silver Bear for Best Director
Dénes Nagy (Natural Light)
Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance
Maren Eggert (I’m Your Man)
Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance
Lilla Kizlinger (Forest – I See You Everywhere)
Silver Bear for Best Screenplay
Hong Sangsoo (Introduction)
Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution (Editing)
Yibrán Asuad (A Cop Movie)
We – dir. Alice Diop
Special Jury Award
Taste – dir. Lê Bảo
Best Director (Tie)
Ramon and Silvan Zürcher (The Girl and the Spider)
Denis Cote (Special Hygiene)
Rock Bottom Riser – dir. Fern Silva