Fire at Sea, Gianfranco Rosi's Italian documentary about the refugee crisis on the island of Lampedusa, won the 66th Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear for Best Film on Saturday.
The pic's win came as no surprise. From the start of this year's fest, taking place amidst the gravest refugee crisis facing Europe in modern history, the theme of displaced people, forced from their homes due to war, violence and economic necessity, has deeply defined the event.
Fire at Sea looks at the harrowing journeys undertaken by immigrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia as they risk their lives to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa in the hopes of making it to mainland Europe.
"At this moment I have to think about all the people who did not survive the journey to Lampedusa," Rosi said upon accepting the prize. "Lampedusa is a generous place. It is a place of fishermen, and fishermen always open their arms to those who come from the sea."
The seven-member Berlinale jury, headed by Meryl Streep, honored a diverse selection of international films. The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to Danis Tanovic's Bosnian drama Death in Sarajevo, about the staff and guests of a hotel hosting an international diplomatic delegation.
Mia Hansen-Love won the Silver Bear for best director for her French pic Things to Come, starring Isabelle Huppert as a Paris high school philosophy teacher forced to deal with sudden changes in her life, while Trine Dyrholm received the Silver Bear for best actress for Thomas Vinterberg's The Commune.
Mohamed Ben Attia's Tunisian drama Hedi took the best actor Silver Bear for Majd Mastoura as well as the best first feature award (presented by a separate jury).
The fest's Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize, which honours feature films that open new perspectives, went to Philippine helmer Lav Diaz's challenging eight-hour historical drama A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery.
Looking back at his most memorable events of the past 10 days, Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick quipped, "I always considered global warming to be a bad thing, and it is, but if there's something good to come out of it, it could be days like Thursday, when we had the early morning premiere of 'A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery.' The sun was shining ... and we could go to bed afterwards, sleep for another hour, then have lunch."
Other winners included young Polish writer-director Tomas Wasilewski, who took the Silver Bear for best screenplay for "The United States of Love," about four women struggling with love and desire in post-communist Poland.
Cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bing received the Silver Bear for Artistic Contribution for his work on Yang Chao's Chinese pic Crosscurrent, which follows a young cargo ship captain on his journey up the Yangtze River.
The winners were among 18 films vying for the Golden Bear and beat international contenders such as Michael Grandage's "Genius," starring Colin Firth and Jude Law; Vincent Perez's World War II tale Alone in Berlin, with Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson; and Jeff Nichols' Midnight Special, starring Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton.
The Berlin jury also included British actor Clive Owen, German thesp Lars Eidinger, British film critic Nick James, French photographer Brigitte Lacombe, Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher and Polish filmmaker Malgorzata Szumowska.
Separately, winners of the children's Generation Kplus section included Jayaraj Rajasekharan Nair's Indian pic The Trap, which took the Crystal Bear for Best Film, and Pepa San Martin's Chilean-Argentinian drama Rara, which won the Generation Kplus International Jury Grand Prix for Best Film.
In the Generation 14plus youth section, Renars Vimba's Latvian film Mellow Mud took the best film Crystal Bear, while the Generation 14plus International Jury Grand Prix for Best Film went to Roberto Doveris' Chilean drama Plants, about a young woman experiencing her sexual awakening while dealing with family problems at home.
On Friday, the 30th Teddy Award for queer film went to Haendl Klaus' Austrian drama Tomcat, about a gay couple whose idyllic life is disrupted by violence, while Sara Jordeno's Kiki, about New York's ballroom scene, took the best documentary prize.
A list of winners follows:
Golden Bear for Best Film "Fire At Sea" Italy/France Dir: Gianfranco Rosi
Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize "Death in Sarajevo" France/Bosnia and Herzegovina Dir: Danis Tanovic
Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for a feature film that opens new perspectives "A Lullaby To The Sorrowful Mystery" Philippines/Singapore Dir: Lav Diaz
Silver Bear for Best Director Mia Hansen-Love, "Things To Come" (France/Germany)
Silver Bear for Best Actress Trine Dyrholm, "The Commune" (Denmark/Sweden/Netherlands)
Silver Bear for Best Actor Majd Mastoura, "Inhebbek Hedi" (Tunisia/Belgium/France)
Silver Bear for Best Script Tomasz Wasilewski, "United States Of Love" (Poland)
Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution Mark Lee Ping-Bing, Cinematographer, "Crosscurrent" (China)
Best First Feature "Inhebbek Hedi" Tunisia/Belgium/France Dir: Mohamed Ben Attia
Golden Bear for Best Short Film "Balada De Um Batraquio" Portugal Dir: Leonor Teles
Silver Bear Jury Prize (Short Film) "A Man Returned" UK/Denmark/Netherlands Dir: Mahdi Fleifel
Audi Short Film Award "Jin Zhi Xia Mao" Taiwan Dir: Chiang Wei Liang