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Early rewards at Berlinale for Sudanese and French world premières

media Suhaib Gasmelbari (3rd from L) and the four directors featured in his documentary which won the Panorama audience award at 69th Berlinale (c)Stanley Raegh/Berlinale 2019

The 2019 Berlinale awards started coming in at a pace on Saturday. Among them, Sudanese documentary Talking About Trees and the much talked about Franco-Israeli Synonymes.

Among the independent awards, the International Foreign Correspondents or Fipresci prize for the best film in the Golden and Silver Bear Competition went to Nadav Lapid's Synonmes. It's a loosely autobiographical film shot in his adopted Paris and tells part of the story of Yoav, an Israeli who has fled his country.

"The film is very Israeli focused. But sometimes you have to go to The Moon to get a better view of The Earth. So sometimes you have to go to Paris to get a better view of Israel, although it's not only about Israel."

Through the former soldier's experiences in this new land, the film shapes its characters (Yoav, Emile, Caroline, Michel and Yaron) so they verge on cariactures, and create a comfortable distance from which to be critical.

Among the Israelis, there are those ready for a fight, provocative, paranoid and sensitive. The Parisians are monotone, stuck-up, coldly sensuous. Both groups are proud of their country and of their identity.

Songs underline the identity issues in Synonymes, - each country's national anthem and in Israel, their Eurovision song contest winner of 1979, Hallelujah, still going strong today. However, Yoav proves to be a better dancer or lover than singer.

Reviving cinema

Talking About Trees is a Franco-Sudanese-Chadian co-production is a documentary directed by 40 year-old Sudanese director Suhaib Gasmelbari.

The film shows how four elderly friends, who are mad about films, go about renovating an old movie hall in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

The aim is to pass on their passion to younger people who have never seen a film in a theatre.

The four men are all film directors who studied abroad, Ibrahim Shadad, Suleiman Mohamed Ibrahim, Manar Al Hilo and Altayeb Mahdi and have been organising travelling cinema with portable screens.

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