The documentary 'Dahomey', about African art stolen by Europe, wins at the Berlinale | Culture

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The documentary Dahomey, about African art stolen by European countries in the colonial era and now returned to its places of origin, won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale this Saturday. The film, directed by French-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop, documents the return of 26 works that were stolen by France in the 19th century to the kingdom of Dahomey, in present-day Benin. The director, 41 years old, follows the trail of these ceremonial objects and reflects the debates that her return to her home provoked among a youth lacking their own imagination. But if it is memorable it is, above all, because of an extraordinary poetic gesture: Dahomey is narrated by one of those statues, hybrids of man and animal, through a monologue written by the Haitian author Makenzy Orcel. This unusual artistic decision echoes other festival titles that adopted the point of view of inanimate objects and animal species, suggesting that the human gaze is no longer enough to account for the complexity of the world.

“The current moment is harsh: either we get rid of the past or we take responsibility for what happened, using it as a basis to continue moving forward. You have to choose. We have chosen: we are with those who refuse to accept amnesia as a method,” said Diop when accepting the award, while standing for Palestine and dedicating the award “to those who have paved the way.” The triumph of Dahomey It was a coherent end to a highly politicized edition dotted with controversies, in which, in addition, documentaries have stood out above other genres. Dahomeywhich Filmin will release in Spain at the end of 2024, was also one of the few titles that had stood out within a forgettable and depressive competition.

The official jury, headed by the actress Lupita Nyong'o (and including the Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra), the first black president to hold that position, wanted to praise the few films that stood out for their radicalism. Among them was A Traveler's Needs, the latest from Hong Sangsoo, which won the Grand Jury Prize. The Korean teacher creates a comedy that oscillates between the lunatic and the absurd, starring a French teacher who has invented an ineffable method: she dispenses with textbooks, because she believes that a foreign language is best learned when it serves to express feelings. intimate. Isabelle Huppert shines wandering around Seoul like an alien in this minor film in the filmography of the person responsible for it, but still in the high range of the Berlin competition.

Hong Sangsoo receives the Grand Jury Prize for 'A Traveler's Needs', from director Albert Serra, member of the official jury.FABRIZIO BENSCH (REUTERS)

They also come from another planet, in a literal sense, the protagonists of L'empirea peculiar remake unofficial Star Wars in northern France, directed by Bruno Dumont. The film, which won the jury prize, describes a conflict between two galactic forces that aspire to control the Earth and exemplifies another trend seen in this edition: futuristic and dystopian cinema that takes place in a future very similar to the present. The best director was Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias for Pepe, a very Martian biography of one of the hippos that were part of Pablo Escobar's zoo, an almost indescribable experiment in formal terms that can also be read as an allegory of the colonial condition. On stage, the 39-year-old Dominican director called for using imagination to oppose “Eurocentrism and imperial Americanization.”

The acting awards, which are given without distinction of gender, went to Sebastian Stan for A Different Manin her first important distinction after a solid career but without starring roles (in the protagonist category), and Emily Watson, who plays a mother superior with the ways of a Sicilian mafia, light years from the woman she played in breaking the wavesin Small Things Like Thesethe inaugural film of this edition, about the victims of the Magdalene order in Ireland (it won as a secondary film).

It did not have any titles in the official section, but Spanish cinema did not leave the festival empty. Especially the one directed by women. For example, The Human Hibernationby Anna Cornudella, won the Fipresci prize from international critics. Memories of a body that burnsby Antonella Sudasassi, a co-production between Spain and Costa Rica that explores the sexuality of three elderly women, won the main prize in the Panorama section. Queensby Klaudia Reynicke, co-produced with Peru, took the Grand Prize in the Generation section, while the short film healthy cureby Lucía G. Romero, 25 years old, won the Crystal Bear awarded by the young jury in the same section of the contest.

Winners of the 74th Berlinale

Golden Bear: Dahomeyby Mati Diop.

Grand Jury Prize: A Traveler's Needsby Hong Sangsoo.

Jury Prize: L'empireby Bruno Dumont.

Silver Bear for best address: Pepeby Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias.

Silver Bear for best lead performance: Sebastian Stan, by A Different Man.

Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance: Emily Watson, by Small Things Like These.

Silver Bear for best script: Sterben (Dying), by Matthias Glasner.

Silver Bear for artistic contribution: Martin Gschlacht by Des Teufels Bad (The Devil's Bath).

Best film in the Encounters section: Direct Actionby Guillaume Cailleau and Ben Russell.

Best documentary: No Other Landby Basel Adra, Hamdan Ballal, Yuval Abraham and Rachel Szor.

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