Documentary 'Dahomey' wins Golden Bear at a somewhat turbulent edition of the Berlinale

Dahomey, a documentary by French-Senegalese Mati Diop, won the Golden Bear at this year's Berlinale film festival in the German capital, which has been particularly turbulent. Emily Watson won for her supporting role in 'Small Things Like These', the film by Belgian director Tim Mielants.

'Dahomey' is a political documentary about African art treasures looted by French colonial troops in 1892 and returned to Benin in November 2021.

"As a French-Senegalese, Afro-descendant filmmaker, I have chosen to be one of those who refuse to forget, who refuse to accept amnesia as a method," said Diop upon receiving the festival's top prize.

I stand in solidarity with the people of Senegal

"I stand in solidarity with the people of Senegal in their struggle for democracy and justice." Like many other winners, she called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The Silver Bear for best director went to Nelson Carlos De Los Santos Arias for 'Pepe'. The best actor award went to Sebastian Stan for his role in 'A Different Man'.

Emily Watson won the Silver Bear for Best Supporting Role for her role in 'Small Things Like These', the film that opened the festival. Tim Mielant's English-language debut about the controversial Magdalene laundries immediately won international acclaim. Director Matthias Glasner won a Silver Bear for Best Screenplay for 'Sterben'.

No Other Land

The Best Documentary Award went to the Israeli-Palestinian film 'No Other Land'. The documentary shows filmmaker Basel Adra's struggle to preserve his village in the West Bank.

In Gaza, we are not equal

The four-member collective behind the film used the award to call on Germany not to supply arms to Israel. One of the filmmakers is Israeli, and the other is Palestinian. "In Gaza, we are not equal," said the first. "This inequality must end." Calls for a ceasefire were among the most frequent, after expressions of gratitude.

The 74th edition of the Berlinale was already quite turbulent before it began, as controversy erupted over the (initial) inclusion of some members of the far-right AfD party on the guest list. In addition, the organisation's relative silence on the gruesome reality in Gaza sparked protests, especially considering that last year's Berlinale focused heavily on the war in Ukraine.


French-Senegalese filmmaker and actress Mati Diop poses with the Golden Bear for Best Film for the film "Dahomey" on the red carpet after the awards ceremony the 74th Berlinale International Film Festival, on February 24, 2024 in Berlin. © ​ Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

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