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Berlin Film Festival to make its acting prizes gender-neutral

Workers roll out the carpet for Berlin International Film Festival
Workers roll out the carpet for the 70th edition of the Berlin International Film Festival in February.
(Britta Pedersen / dpa via Associated Press)

The organizers of the Berlin International Film Festival say they will stop awarding separate acting prizes to women and men beginning next year.

Berlinale organizers said Monday that the performance awards will be defined in a gender-neutral way at the 2021 festival, for which a physical event is planned.

The festival, one of the most important on the international calendar, awards a Golden Bear for the best film and a series of Silver Bears, which until this year included honors for best actor and best actress. Organizers said those prizes will be replaced with a Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance and a Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance.

In a statement, the co-heads of the festival, Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, said that “not separating the awards in the acting field according to gender [is] a signal for a more gender-sensitive awareness in the film industry.”

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At the same time, the Alfred Bauer Prize, which is named after the festival’s founding director, will be permanently retired. The prize was suspended this year following revelations about Bauer’s role in the Nazis’ movie-making bureaucracy.

For more than three decades, the Berlinale has also awarded the Teddy, the world’s oldest award for LGBT cinematic works.

Commenting on the decision to hold a physical event next year, despite uncertainties because of the coronavirus, Rissenbeek and Chatrian stressed the need for a “lively relationship with the audience.”

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“In times of the corona pandemic, it has become even clearer that we still require analogue experience spaces in the cultural realm,” they said, noting that other festivals have also resumed holding physical rather than virtual events.

The next edition of the festival is scheduled for Feb. 11-21, 2021. This year’s festival was one of the last major events that took place before the COVID-19 pandemic largely shut down public life in Germany.


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