BERLIN (REUTERS) - Spanish director Carla Simon's film Alcarras, which explores the divisions ripped into a close-knit family of Catalan farmers who face eviction from their ancestral plot, won the Berlin Film Festival's top prize on Wednesday (Feb 16).
Simon herself grew up on a peach farm in the village of Alcarras, and her film was made using amateur actors from that area whom she recruited at village fairs and coached into playing several generations of a family of smallholders.
Announcing the best film award, the festival's first since returning to in-person screenings after last year's coronavirus-enforced break, jury president M. Night Shyamalan praised her skill in marshalling powerful performances from a cast that ranged from child actors to people in their 80s.
"This is a film about family relationships, their generational tensions, gender roles and the importance of unity in times of crisis," she wrote in her portrait of the film.
"This is a reflection on the need of adaptation, as we portray the last days of a universe that its inhabitants believed to be eternal," according to Simon.
During an emotional ceremony in which several winners dedicated awards to friends who had died of Covid-19, the best documentary award went to Myanmar Diaries, a documentary shot by 10 anonymous filmmakers whose footage was smuggled out and stitched into a portrait of life in Myanmar since last year's coup.
Amid tensions and shuttle diplomacy centering on Russia's intentions toward Ukraine, some awards did reflect the Berlinale's traditional role as a political festival, set up in the 1950s in a divided city on the front lines of the Cold War.
The best short film was awarded to recent graduate Anastasia Veber's Trap, a 20-minute portrait of the lives of young adults in Russia who party the nights away, chasing hedonism and trying to evade police checks.