Second prize went to prolific South Korean filmmaker Hong Sangsoo for “The Novelist’s Film,” a subtle conversation-driven drama centered around a series of encounters by a writer interested in making a film. Hong had won Best Director at the Berlinale (as the festival is known in Germany) only two years ago. A Special Jury Prize went to “Robe of Gems,” a debut film set in rural Mexico by director Natalia López.

The Best Director award went to Claire Denis for “The Two Sides of the Blade”, a searing melodrama starring Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon. Laila Stieler won best screenplay for German film ‘Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush,’ a hard-hitting drama about a Turkish-German woman’s real-life legal battle to free her son from Guantánamo Bay detention. The latter film also won the festival’s Best Lead Actor award for Meltem Kaptan, a Cologne-based comedian who portrayed Kurnaz. Best Supporting Actor went to Laura Basuki of “Before, Now & Then,” for playing a woman who befriends her lover’s wife in 1960s Indonesia.

This year’s festival had been dominated by concerns over the coronavirus. Unlike the Sundance Film Festival, which went live in January, the Berlinale, co-directed by Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek, stuck to an in-person event, including red carpets, press conferences and public screenings, but with reduced capabilities and rigorous testing. and mask protocols. (In a compromise, the festival’s showroom, the European Film Market, has been moved online.)

The decision prompted pushback from some observers, who feared that, despite the measures, the festival would spur infections and strain hospitals in Berlin amid a surge of Omicron coronavirus cases. In a comment for RBBa public broadcaster, a critic claimed that attending the festival would be like playing a game of Russian roulette. Writing in Die Zeit newspaperanother commentator, journalist Wenke Husmann, argued that the decision “appeared to mock” public health concerns.

As a result, the mood at the opening gala last week was subdued and a little defensive, with organizers, politicians and entertainment figures making impassioned pleas from the stage about the importance of going to the movies. In a speech, German Culture Minister Claudia Roth argued that the experience of going to the cinema was important for social cohesion and democracy, and that “without it we don’t just lose each other others, we lose ourselves”.