The Berlinale's Golden Bear for Best Film has been awarded to Iranian director Jafar Panahi's 'Taxi'.
Jafar Panahi, the critically acclaimed Iranian director, has won the Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear for his film Taxi. Panahi has been banned from making films by the Iranian authorities yet continues to work and gain international support. Panahi also stars in Taxi as a driver who meets a variety of people as he drives them around Tehran. The film both celebrates Iranian culture and condemns the censorship imposed by the Iranian authorities.
Panahi is unable to travel out of Iran, owing to restrictions imposed by the Iranian authorities. His young niece, Hana Saeidi, accepted the award on his behalf. As Reuters reports, Saeidi was overwhelmed by the gesture and cried in front of the large audience at the Berlinale Awards Ceremony on Saturday (14th February). The star studded audience included such actors as James Franco, Cate Blanchett and Juliette Binoche. French actress Audrey Tatou comforted Saeidi who managed to say she was "too moved" to talk, as The Guardian reports.
Panahi's latest film had been smuggled out of the country as he is currently banned from making films or writing scripts by the Iranian authorities. The film community, and political commentators, have celebrated the film for representing freedom of expression. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, upon hearing the news, described Panahi's achievement as "an important sign for the freedom of art." Darren Aronofsky, the head of the prize jury, also described Taxi as "a love letter to cinema".
Panahi has reportedly responded upon hearing news of the award and posted on the Instagram account attributed to him. As Reuters reports, Panahi wrote in Farsi: "This is an important artistic and political acknowledgment of the film that makes me very proud."
The Silver Bears were awarded to a diverse range of films. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courteney took home the Best Actress and Actor Silver Bears for their performance in 45 Years. El Club (The Club), directed by Pablo Larraín, received the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize and Ixcanul (Ixcanul Volcano), directed by Jayro Bustamante, won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize.
For the full list of winners see the Berlinale website.