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Mati Diop’s “Dahomey” Wins Golden Bear at 74th Berlinale

todayFebruary 26, 2024

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The 67-minute documentary by director Mati Diop triumphed at the 74th Berlinale

The 74th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) concluded with a memorable awards ceremony at the Berlinale Palast, where Mati Diop‘s “Dahomey” made history by winning the coveted Golden Bear. The festival, held from February 15th to 25th, saw a diverse array of films competing for top honours, with Diop’s documentary emerging as the standout winner.

About “Dahomey”

“Dahomey” explores the complex legacy of colonialism and restitution through the lens of France’s return of 26 ancient artefacts from the Kingdom of Dahomey to Benin in 2021. Mati Diop, a French-Senegalese filmmaker, crafted a thought-provoking and innovative documentary that resonated with both audiences and the jury. The film’s win marks a historic moment as Diop becomes the first Black director ever to receive the Golden Bear at Berlinale.

A night to remember

Berlinale 2024 - all award winners on the stage
Berlinale 2024 – all award winners on the stage

The gala started with a resounding ovation for Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, who were presiding over their final edition of the festival. Hosted by Hadnet Tesfai, the opening moments featured a reflective conversation between Tesfai and the outgoing directors as they looked back on the triumphs and tribulations of their five-year tenure at the helm of the Berlinale.

Among the audience, Tricia Tuttle, the newly appointed director of the festival, received a warm welcome from Rissenbeek, symbolizing a smooth transition of leadership as she took her place among the attendees. Lupita Nyong’o, chair of the jury, presented the Golden Bear to Diop amidst thunderous applause. In her acceptance speech, Diop emphasized the importance of restitution and justice, dedicating the award to the communities represented in the film.

Big winners

In addition to “Dahomey”, several other films were recognized for their excellence. Hong Sangsoo‘s “A Traveler’s Needs”, starring Isabelle Huppert, received the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize, while Bruno Dumont‘s “The Empire” won the Silver Bear Jury Prize. Sebastian Stan and Emily Watson took home the Silver Bears for Best Leading and Supporting Performances, respectively, for their outstanding roles in “A Different Man” and “Small Things Like These.”

Sebastian Stan in A Different Man by Aaron Schimberg
Sebastian Stan in A Different Man by Aaron Schimberg

The Encounters section of the festival honoured Guillaume Cailleau and Ben Russell‘s “Direct Action” with the Best Film award, while Juliana Rojas received the Best Director accolade for “Cidade; Campo.” Additionally, the Berlinale Documentary Award went to Basel Adra, Hamdan Ballal, Yuval Abraham, and Rachel Szor for “No Other Land,” a powerful portrayal of life under Israeli occupation in Palestine.

The festival also featured a strong lineup of short films, with Francisco Lezama‘s “An Odd Turn” winning the Golden Bear for Best Short Film.

The complete list of winners

Golden Bear for Best Film: “Dahomey,” Mati Diop
Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize: “A Traveler’s Needs,” Hong Sangsoo
Silver Bear Jury Prize: “The Empire”  Bruno Dumont
Silver Bear for Best Director: “Pepe” Nelson Carlos De Los Santos Arias
Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance: “A Different Man” Sebastian Stan
Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance: “Small Things Like These,” Emily Watson
Silver Bear for Best Screenplay: “Dying” Matthias Glasner
Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution: “The Devil’s Bath” Martin Gschlacht, cinematography

Best Film: “Direct Action,” Guillaume Cailleau and Ben Russell
Best Director: “Cidade; Campo.”, Juliana Rojas
Special Jury Award: (ex aequo) “The Great Yawn of History,” Aliyar Rasti; “Some Rain Must Fall,” Qiu Yang

Best Documentary: “No Other Land”  Basel Adra, Hamdan Ballal, Yuval Abraham, Rachel Szor
Special Mention: “Direct Action,” Guillaume Cailleau and Ben Russell

Best First Feature: “Cu Li Never Cries,” Phạm Ngọc Lân

Golden Bear: “An Odd Turn,” Francisco Lezama
Silver Bear: “Remains of the Hot Day,” Wenqian Zhang
Special Mention: “That’s All From Me,” Eva Könnemann

Awards previously announced:

Panorama Audience Award: “Memories of a Burning Body,” Antonella Sudasassi Furniss
Second Prize: “Crossing” Levan Akin
Third Prize: “All Shall Be Well,” Ray Yeung

Panorama Documentary Audience Award: “No Other Land,” Basel Adra, Hamdan Ballal, Yuval Abraham, Rachel Szor
Second Prize: “My Stolen Planet,” Farahnaz Sharifi
Third Prize: “Teaches of Peaches,” Philipp Fussenegger, Judy Landkammer

Generation International Jury
Grand Prix for Best Film in Generation 14plus: “Who By Fire” Philippe Lesage
Special Mention: “Maydegol,” Sarvnaz Alambeigi
Special Prize for Best Short Film in Generation 14plus: “A Bird Flew,” Leinad Pájaro De la Hoz
Special Mention: “Songs of Love and Hate,” Saurav Ghimire
Grand Prix for Best Film in Generation Kplus: “Reinas,” Klaudia Reynicke
Special Mention: “Through Rocks and Clouds,” Franco García Becerra
Special Prize for Best Short Film in Generation Kplus: “A Summer’s End Poem,” Lam Can-zhao
Special Mention: “Uli,” Mariana Gil Ríos

Youth Jury Generation 14plus
Crystal Bear for Best Film: “Last Swim,” Sasha Nathwani
Special Mention: “She Sat There Like All Ordinary Ones,” Qu Youjia
Crystal Bear for Best Short Film: “Cura Sana,” Lucía G. Romero
Special Mention: “Lapso,” Caroline Cavalcanti

Children’s Jury Generation Kplus
Crystal Bear for Best Film: “It’s Okay!” Kim Hye-young
Special Mention: “Young Hearts,” Anthony Schatteman
Crystal Bear for Best Short Film: “Butterfly,” Florence Miailhe
Special Mention: “Soukun,” Dina Naser

Ecumenical Jury Prizes
Competition: “My Favorite Cake,” Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha
Panorama: “Sex” Dag Johan Haugerud
Forum: “Maria’s Silence,” Dāvis Sīmanis
Special Mention: “Intercepted,” Oksana Karpovych

FIPRESCI Jury Prizes
Competition: “My Favorite Cake,” Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha
Encounters: “Sleep With Your Eyes Open” Nele Wohlatz
Panorama: Faruk,” Aslı Özge
Forum: “The Human Hibernation,” Anna Cornudella Castro

Teddy Awards
Best Feature Film: “All Shall Be Well,” Ray Yeung
Best Documentary/Essay Film: “Teaches of Peaches,” Philipp Fussenegger, Judy Landkammer
Best Short Film: “Grandmamauntsistercat,” Zuza Banasińska
Jury Award: “Crossing,” Levan Akin
Special Teddy Award: Lothar Lambert

CICAE Art Cinema Award
Panorama: “Sex,” Dag Johan Haugerud
Forum: “Shahid,” Narges Kalhor

Guild Film Prize: “Dying,” Matthias Glasner

Label Europa Cinemas: “Sex,” Dag Johan Haugerud

Caligari Film Prize: “Shahid,” Narges Kalhor

Peace Film Prize: “Favoriten,” Ruth Beckermann

Amnesty International Film Award: “The Strangers’ Case,” Brandt Andersen

Heiner Carow Prize: “Ivo,” Eva Trobisch

AG-Kino Gilde Cinema Vision 14Plus: “Last Swim,” Sasha Nathwani
Special Mention: “Disco Afrika: A Malagasy Story,” Luck Razanajaona


Written by: Federica Scarpa




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