A history of safe values ​​| Comment

We wrote here a couple of weeks ago that this 2023 edition of the Berlinale had been an edition of safe values ​​— and in a way the history of the jury chaired by actress Kristen Stewart confirms this, assigning its prizes to established names that signed some of the best festival films, even if in unexpected configurations.

It is precisely in this lineage that the Jury Prize must be understood as barely livingby João Canijo: it is the deserved recognition of a filmmaker with established credits who inexplicably never took the leap to the next level, and with a film that fully deserves to take that leap (despite its critical reception by the magazines of the field not have been largely unanimous).

By her side in the main competition’s history, we found safe names again: Angela Schanelec (best argument by Music); Philippe Garrel (Best Direction by Le Grand Chariot); Christian Petzold (Special Jury Prize for Afire); Nicolas Philibert (the author of the phenomenon To be and have, Golden Bear by sur l’adamant). As if the “young filmmakers” who were part of the competitive selection had not proposed titles at their level (we are still sorry that the jury left out Past Lives by, Celine Song or Totem, by Lila Aviles). All good people, all good films, all very good but all very unsurprising.

It is not a transcendent record, even if it is extremely defensible: in fact, some of the best films of the festival were here (which also reflects a less impressive selection than in previous years). And precisely because of the number of names with winning curriculum, the impression that remains is that of a lukewarm festival (which, in fact, it was), safe more than challenging, without failing to reflect, discreetly and slightly, the activist, political, that Berlin always has.

The Adamant in the documentary by Philibert that won the Golden Bear is a day center on the Seine that welcomes adults with mental disorders, a social issue that is far from being “fracturing” like Ukraine, Iran or trans rights in focus this year. Not that they were forgotten: the award for best lead performance went to the amazing Sofía Otero for the Basque film Estíbaliz Sologuren about a transgender girl, 20,000 Bee Speciesand the special jury prize of the parallel Encounters to Orlando, My Political Biographythe trans celebration of Paul B. Preciado.

Incidentally: the boldness that may have been missing from the competition’s history is all in the Encounters awards, with the Golden Bear being here of the Belgian Bas Devos and the Jury Prize at the same time as Orlando It is samsara by Lois Patiño, who reinvent with charm and intelligence what a film can be in the 21st century. In a year in which the two competitions were too often confused, the honors end up defining much better what each one is supposed to be: “classic” in the case of the main competition, “daring” in Encounters.

It remains to celebrate João Canijo’s Silver Bear and hope that this will allow his cinema to obtain the international traction it always deserved and never found. There is something fair about his award that cannot and should not be ignored — and, alongside these names, it is much bigger than it seems.

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