Taxi, from acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi (Closed Circuit, This Is Not a Film) won the top prize – the Golden Bear Award – at the 65th Berlin Film Festival. In Taxi, Panahi posed as a cab driver riding through the streets of Tehran offering a glimpse of modern Iran as he picked up unassuming passengers along the way. The win for Panahi’s film is in many ways both timely and poignant as the director, despite being internationally celebrated (and having won prizes in the past at the Cannes, Venice and Berlin film festivals) is barred from making films in his home country, and banned from traveling outside his native Iran. Taxi was well received by critics at the festival, and Celluloid Dreams holds international rights to the film.
Taxi, like his past few films – Panahi’s 2011 documentary This Is Not a Film chronicled the filmmaker while under house arrest – was made in secret. The bestowing of the top prize from a jury headed by Academy Award nominated director Darren Aronofsky makes a pointed case in favor of free speech. Panahi said in a statement leading up to the 2015 Berlin Film Festival:
I’m a filmmaker. I can’t do anything else but make films. Cinema is my expression and the meaning of my life. Nothing can prevent me from making films. Because when I’m pushed into the furthest corners I connect with my inner self. And in such private spaces, despite all limitations, the necessity to create becomes even more of an urge. Cinema as an Art becomes my main preoccupation. That is the reason why I have to continue making films under any circumstances to pay my respects and feel alive.
Panahi’s young niece, Hana, tearfully accepted the top prize trophy at the awards ceremony.
The Silver Bear (second place prize) went to The Club, a darkly comic commentary on the Catholic Church. The film was directed by Pablo Larraín, the Chilean director of the acclaimed 2012 film No, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Foreign-Language Film. The two acting prizes went to Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling, both appearing in Andrew Haigh’s drama 45 Years, which focuses the 45th wedding anniversary of a married couple; Sundance Selects picked up the film. Haigh’s previous credits include the acclaimed British gay drama Weekend (2011) and the current HBO series Looking.
Films that were included in the 2015 competition line-up but didn’t end up winning prizes included eagerly expected titles like Terrence Malick’s Knights of Cups (starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman) and Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert (starring Nicole Kidman). Last year, two films that won big at Berlin ended up becoming major awards players down the road: Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel won the Silver Bear and Boyhood‘s Richard Linklater won the Best Director prize – time will tell if this years’ crop can make similar cases for themselves. List of winners below:
- GOLDEN BEAR: Taxi– directed by Jafar Panahi
- SILVER BEAR GRAND JURY PRIZE: The Club– directed by Pablo Larraín
- BEST DIRECTOR: (TIE) Radu Jude, Aferim!; Matgorzata Szumowksa, Body
- BEST ACTOR: Tom Courtenay, 45 Years
- BEST ACTRESS: Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
- BEST SCRIPT: Patricio Guzman, The Pearl Button
- BEST FIRST FEATURE: 600 Miles– directed by Gabriel Ripstein
- OUTSTANDING ARTISTIC CONTRIBUTION: (TIE) Victoria– Sturla Brandth Grovlen (cinematographer); Under Electric Clouds– Sergey Mikhalchuk and Evgeniy Privin (cinematgraphers)
- ALFRED BAUER PRIZE FOR A FEATURE THAT OPENS NEW PERSPECTIVES: Ixcanul– directed by Jayro Bustamante