An Iranian film has won the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival for the first time. The Golden Bear went to Asghar Farhadi's family drama "Nader and Simin: A Separation."
One of the notable things about the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival was that one of the jury members was not there. Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who is facing six years in prison and a 20-year ban on making films after falling foul of Iran's regime, was appointed as a member of this year's jury as a gesture of solidarity, even though he was unable to attend.
But one of his compatriots, Asghar Farhadi, was able to come to Berlin to present his film "Nader and Simin: A Separation," and he will be returning to Tehran satisfied -- his film reaped the festival's top prize, the Golden Bear, on Saturday evening.
Farhadi's film production had come to a halt, because of his vocal criticism of politics interfereing in the affairs of The House of Cinema. In fact all he had said was that he hoped the situation in the country would become such that Bahram Baizai (this too) would return, Amir Naderi would be able to make his films in Iran, the star of About Elly, Golshifteh Farahani [i just posted a song by her] would be able to return to Iran, and Jafar Panahi would be able to make films again.
It is the first time the Berlinale's Golden Bear has gone to an Iranian film. Farhadi's movie, a family drama about a couple on the verge of divorce, also won two Silver Bear for best actress and best actor, which went to the film's collective female and male ensembles, respectively. Farhadi, 38, also won a Silver Bear in 2009 for his drama "About Elly."
"I want to remind you of Jafar Panahi," Farhadi said during his acceptance speech. "I really think his problem will be solved, and I hope he will be the one standing here next year."
Given the focus on the plight of Iranian filmmakers at this year's Berlinale, the prize is likely to be interpreted as a political signal by the festival jury. Jury president Isabella Rossellini said the choice of Farhadi's film was "pretty unanimous."