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Italian documentary 'Fire at Sea' wins top prize at Berlin Film Festival

The Italian documentary “Fire at Sea” won the Golden Bear, the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday.

Directed by Gianfranco Rosi, “Fire at Sea” looks at the ongoing European migrant crisis via the small Sicilian island of Lampedusa. In Variety, critic Peter Debruge called the film “a delicate, decidedly non-commercial cine-poem.” In the Guardian, Andrew Pulver said, “This is quiet, unflashy filmmaking, that nonetheless packs a powerful punch.”

The festival’s main competition jury was led by Meryl Streep, and included actors Lars Eidinger, Clive Owen and Alba Rohrwacher, critic Nick James, photographer Brigitte Lacombe and filmmaker Malgorzata Szumowska.

The jury awarded a Silver Bear to “Death in Sarajevo,” a drama that uses the goings-on at a hotel to create an allegory for modern Europe. The film was written and directed by Danis Tanovic, an Oscar winner for his 2001 film “No Man’s Land.”

Lav Diaz’s eight-hour “A Lullaby for the Sorrowful Mystery” also picked up a Silver Bear prize “for a feature film that opens new perspectives.”

The jury gave a best-director prize to Mia Hansen-Løve for her drama “Things to Come,” starring Isabelle Huppert.

Best actress went to Trine Dyrholm for her performance in Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Commune.” Best actor was given to Majd Mastoura for his performance in Mohamed Ben Attia’s “Hedi.” (A separate jury gave Attia a prize for best first feature.)

The Berlin festival prizes often signal further acclaim for a film or performance. Last year’s acting prizes went to Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay for Andrew Haigh’s “45 Years.” Rampling went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for her performance.

The jury also gave a prize for best script to Tomasz Wasilewski for his “United States of Love” and a prize for outstanding artistic contribution to cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bing for his work on Yang Chao’s “Crosscurrent.”

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