Ecumenical Jury awards film prizes at Berlinale 2018
by Anli Serfontein
Berlin, February 2018 - The Ecumenical Jury at the 68th Berlinale for the first time in years chose to differ from the main Berlinale jury by giving the gong to a German film In den Gängen/In the Aisles by film director Thomas Stuber.
The feature film had its premiere late in the competition and received raving reviews. It is about the dreary world of a wholesale supermarket in which the taciturn Christian (Franz Rogowski) is trained by an older colleague and falls in love with his colleague Marion (Sandra Hüller).
Awarding the prize the jury said “When life is a supermarket what we need is not found on the shelves but in the aisles. The film shows in an artistically convincing way what is meant by: „Blessed are the pure in heart“.”
A special commendation was made for the Norwegian film Utøya 22 July based on a real-life, historical event - the Utøya summer camp massacre on 22 July 2011. Shot in real-time, in one single take, the characters are however fictional.
“In a single take, with a hand held camera, the filmmaker creates a claustrophobic engagement with tragedy of the shocking attack that took the 69 lives of young people outside Oslo. The film plunges the audience into the anxiety and despair of the participants, and suggests the possibility of compassion and hope in the face of tragedy,” the jury said.
The International Festival Jury headed by Jury President Tom Tykwer controversially awarded the Golden Bear to Touch Me Not by woman director Adina Pintilie from Romania, in what many Berlinale observers felt was a political and not an artistic decision. It was the only film out of the 19 films in the International Competition, competing for the 2018 Golden Bear that was virtually universally panned by all the world’s top film critics. The International Competition, also included new works by film directors Lav Diaz, Gus van Sant, Benoit Jacquot and Malgorzata Szumowska.
In the Forum section the prize went to the Argentinian film Teatro de guerra (Theatre of War) by Lola Arias, 2018. The jury report about the experimental film which brought together six veterans from the Malvinas/Falklands War to make a film about their memories and post-war nightmares, said “More than 3 decades after the conflict has ended, British and Argentinian veterans and young actors explore the stories of the war in a setting that transcends theatre. In this reenactment, the Falkands conflict stands for all wars and their traumatic consequences. War ends lives but here humanity prevails.”
Lola Arias is an Argentinian filmmaker, theatre director and visual artists whose productions play with the overlap zones between reality and fiction. The film playfully switches between reality and fiction, spontaneity and acting. It explores how to transform a soldier into an actor, how to turn war experiences into a story, how to show the collateral effects of war. The veterans do not only act in the film but also in a theatre production Minefield.
Other awards by the Ecumenical Jury in the Panorama section went to German-Austrian film Styx by Wolfgang Fischer. It is the story of a woman embarking on a solo-sailing trip from Gibraltar to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean. She doesn't get very far out into the Mediterranean before she comes across a boat packed with refugees, in danger of sinking. She calls for help, but the coast guard is slow to arrive and she is eventually forced to act. During the screenings Styx palpably held the audiences in awe as the shocking film raised familiar but uncomfortable questions about personal responsibility in Europe's current refugee crisis.
“Styx captures the attention of the Ecumenical Jury for the way it discovers the biblical story of the Good Samaritan in the challenge the EU faces in the arrival of desperate immigrants from Africa. It is a film of high artistic quality, which tells a tale of suspense, and confronts us with the ethical dilemma that individuals and nations must face when we are asked, “Who is my neighbor?” , the jury report said.
The Jury has been awarding prizes at the Berlinale since 1992 and consists of representatives of the major churches and the church media organisations Signis and Interfilm.
The Ecumenical Jury at the 2018 Berlinale consisted of Vesna Andonovic (Luxemburg), Freek L. Bakker (The Netherlands), Inge Kirsner (Germany), Winifred Loh (Singapore), Jeffrey H. Mahan (USA), and Joachim Opahle (Germany).
Awards of the Ecumenical Jury at the 68th Berlinale, 2018:
Ecumenical Award to a film in the International Competition:
In den Gängen/In the Aisles, Thomas Stuber, Germany 2018
Ecumenical Award in the Panorama Section:
Styx by Wolfgang Fischer, Germany, Austria 2018
Ecumenical Award at the 47th Forum section of the Berlinale
Teatro de guerra/ Theatre of War, by Lola Arias, Argentinia, Spain 2018
Commendation for a film in the International Competition:
Utøya 22. juli/Utøya - July 22, by Eric Poppe, Norway, 2018
This article first appeared on Ecumenical News