BERLIN — At this year’s Berlin Film Festival, films about women, for women and made by women took center stage.

The festival’s first prize, the Golden Bear, was awarded to Spanish director Carla Simón for her film “Alcarràs”. Other coveted festival awards, Silver Bears, have been awarded to films directed by women, as has the festival’s acting award.

The 72nd Berlinale ran from February 10 to Sunday, with director M. Night Shyamalan heading the jury.

“Alcarràs”, the winner of the Golden Bear, describes the last summer when the Solé family can harvest peaches on their farm in Catalonia. As the grandfather has nothing in writing proving his right to use the land, the owner takes it back. He wants to install solar panels on the land, which will bring him more money.

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Without being sentimental, Simón performs the difficult task of putting a lyrical spotlight on the hard life of farmers. It’s a grateful homage to old-fashioned farming methods that put the hardships and joys of a family working together center stage.

The Silver Bear for Best Director went to Claire Denis for “Both Sides of the Blade.” The latest film in the French director’s long career tells the story of Sara (Juliette Binoche), who enjoys a happy relationship with Jean (Vincent Lindon). But then her old love François (Grégoire Colin) comes back into her life and all bets are off.

Meltem Kaptan won the Silver Bear for Best Lead Performance for the German film ‘Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George Bush’. Director Andreas Dresen’s film, which also won the screenplay award, chronicles the five-year victorious fight of a Turkish-German mother (Kaptan) to free her son from Guantanamo. Despite the seriousness of the problem, the film offers a delightful glimpse into the life of a normal middle-class family whose lives are turned upside down by global politics.

The film catapulted German stand-up comedian and television personality Kaptan into the international spotlight.

Women were the focus of two other award-winning films. “The Novelist’s Film” by South Korean director Hong Sang-soo received the Grand Jury Prize. It follows a famous author (Lee Hyeyoung) as she escapes Seoul to find truth and contentment by meeting new people in the countryside. The Jury Prize was awarded to “Robe of Gems” by Mexican Natalia López Gallardo. In the film, Isabel (Nailea Norvind) and her family take possession of her mother’s villa, including her servants. Therefore, all have to deal with some personal loss.

Not as catchy as “Rabiye Kurnaz versus George Bush”, but also celebrating the strength of women who bridge the gap between personal and political commitment, “Call Jane” by American director Phyllis Nagy. Set in the 1960s, it tells the story of Joy (Elizabeth Banks) who needs an abortion due to health issues but cannot find a doctor to perform the procedure. Ultimately, she turns to a Chicago underground organization, Call Jane, for help. Sigourney Weaver plays the woman who runs the organization.

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One of the most moving films in competition, Chinese director Li Ruijun’s “Return to Dust” deals with great hardships in rural areas. It’s about a desperately poor couple in an arranged marriage. The calm Ma (Wu Renlin) and his wife, Cao (Hai Quing), who lives with an embarrassing condition, build a house together, live there for a while, and love each other more and more – until the disaster strikes. It is a most unusual and touching love story.

If the films in competition were screened in theaters (last year’s festival was virtual), there were fewer theaters and fewer people than in the past. The stars only bowed on the theater stages and did not mix, although they walked the red carpet to the Berlinale Palace.

Instead of constantly going to parties, everyone who attended the festival had to submit to rigorous daily COVID tests and then just watch the movies.

Since normal indulgences were out of the question, the festival was something of a celebration of human feelings. The entire competition seemed bathed in compassion.

Carlo Chatrian, artistic director of the festival, expresses himself as follows: “Never have we seen and welcomed so many love stories as this year: crazy, improbable, unexpected and intoxicating loves.

Angelika Jansen is a freelance writer in San Antonio.