Jafar Panahi has been banned from making movies by the Iranian government for 20 years, but that didn’t stop him from winning the Golden Bear for his competition entry “Taxi” today at the Berlin International Film Festival.
In the movie, Panahi’s third feature produced since the government ban, the director films himself driving a cab around Tehran and capturing his interactions with various passengers, including members of his family.
“Moment by moment, the viewer is in a constant state of negotiation with what they are to believe as real,” wrote Kevin B. Lee in his review for Indiewire early in the festival. “This aligns perfectly with Panahi’s position as a cinematic taxi driver navigating his way through the film, both spatially and dramatically.”
The award was given out by Berlin jury president and filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. “This film is filled with his love for art, his community, his country and his audience,” Aronofsky said.
Panahi’s young niece, who appears in the film, was invited to the stage to accept the prize. In tears, she could only muster, “I’m not able to say anything. I’m too moved.”
Other big winners at today’s ceremony included Pablo Larrain, the Oscar nominee two years ago for “No,” who won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize. Speaking of the movie’s themes surrounding the Catholic Church, Larrain said, “There have been many, many things happening around the idea of God. Many people have suffered and been killed under the name of God. I wish it would stop.” Neil Young’s review for Indiewire is here.
The jury, which included “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner and actress Audrey Tatou, also awarded both acting prizes to the stars of Andrew Haigh’s UK drama “45 Years.” The delicate two-hander, which stars winners Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling. “Haigh’s script largely focuses the couple as they wander through their isolated home in unwieldy attempts to communicate their feelings while unable to directly confront them,” wrote Indiewire’s Eric Kohn in his rave review.
The best screenplay award went to Patrizio Guzman, for his Chilean documentary “The Pearl Button,” which Lee reviewed for Indiewire here. The directing prize was split between Radu Jude’s “Aferim!” (which Kohn reviewed here) and Malgorzata Szumowska’s “Body.”
For more on this year’s festival, check out Indiewire’s Berlin bible.