With a note of sincere joy in her voice, French actress Juliette Binoche announced the prize for the film's producer Saïd Ben Saïd, stressing it was a French-Israeli and German co-production. Ben Saïd let director Nadav Lapid take the centre stage to give all the thanks. Lapid paid special tribute to his co-writer father and late mother Era who had also been his film editor.
To his lead actor, Tom Mercier, he said, "thanks to the face and body of this film. He's a real miracle that happened to me."
A good day for French cinema
One of the most robust of European cinema industries, the French were rewarded for their efforts towards preserving their cultural difference with greater state-support for film production for example.
Lapid's film topped the bill, but François Ozon's Grâce à Dieu, By the Grace of God, a film about paedophilia in the priesthood, won the Grand Jury prize. A court is set to rule on Monday whether the film can be released in France next week or not. The lawyer of a priest who is awaiting a trial in real-life is seeking an injunction until a ruling in his client's case.
Not a Bear from the Berlinale itself, but a cylindrical glass and metal trophy, is awarded by sponsor Glashütte Original for the best documentary. France, along with Chad, Sudan, Germany and Qatar co-produced Suhaib Gasmelbari's first feature, Talking About Trees, which was being talked about by many during the festival.
Gasmelbari dedicated his award to the people who have been in street protests in Sudan since December last year.
A clear Chinese Double Win
Wang Xiaoshuai's Di Jiu Tian Chang, So Long My Son, a moving story about paternity set against a background of Chinese social history from the mid-1960s to mid-1980s, received two prizes: Best Actor for Wang Jingchun and Best Actress for Yong Mei.
Wang Jingchun had a special word of appreciation for his director. "In particularly trying circumstances we were able to film such a great work of art that sheds light on the life Chinese people have today." He also dedicated his prize to his daughter who'd "shown me how beautiful it is to be a father".
A Chinese Puzzle
In a statement before announcing the winners, Binoche expressed the Berlinale International Jury's regret over not being able to consider Chinese director Zhang Yimou's Di Yi Miao Zhong (One Second) for awards. The film had been withdrawn at the last minute.
The film and Zhang gained prominence, if not a Bear Award, and Binoche's statement drew resounding applause.
"Since winning the Golden Bear 31 years ago for his first film Red Sorghum, director Zhang has been an essential voice in international cinema. We need artists who help us make sense of our history and emotions. One second of art in a film can be a true transformation in our lives and in minds. Cinema can do that. We hope to see it on screens around the world very soon, and we deeply missed this film at the Berlinale."
The other five members of the jury on whose behalf she spoke were Rajendra Roy, the Chief Curator of the Moma in New York, UK producer Trudie Styler, German actress Sandra Hüller along with director Sebastian Lelio from Chile and US film critic Justin Chang.
The Golden and Silver Bear Awards 2019
- Golden Bear for Best Film - Synonymes by Nadav Lapid
- Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize - Grâce à Dieu (By the Grace of God) by François Ozon
- Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize (most ground-breaking film) - Systemsprenger
(System Crasher) by Nora Fingscheidt
- Silver Bear for Best Director - Angela Schanelec for Ich war zuhause, aber (I Was at Home, But)
- Silver Bear for Best Actress - Yong Mei in Di Jiu Tian Chang (So Long, My Son) by Wang Xiaoshuai
- Silver Bear for Best Actor - Wang Jingchun in Di Jiu Tian Chang (So Long, My Son) by Wang Xiaoshuai
- Silver Bear for Best Screenplay - Maurizio Braucci, Claudio Giovannesi and Roberto Saviano for La paranza dei bambini (Piranhas) directed by Claudio Giovannesi
- Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution - Rasmus Videbæk for cinematography in Ut og stjæle hester (Out Stealing Horses) by Hans Petter Moland.
- Golden Bear for Best Short Film - Umbra by Florian Fischer and Johannes Krell
- Silver Bear Jury Prize for Short Film - Blue Boy by Manuel Abramovich
- Best documentary sponspored award, Glashütte Original - Talking About Trees by Suhaib Gasmelbari in the Panorama section.