BERLIN - The Ecumenical Jury at the 69th Berlinale film festival has awarded the prize for the best film in the International Competition to a North Macedonian film, it called, "a modern-day parable."
The Jury, however, did not give a prize to French director Francois Ozon's film about sexual abuse in France's Lyon Diocese which later on the evening of Feb. 16 went on to win the prestigious Berlinale Silver Bear.
The Ecumenical Jury appointed by the International Interchurch Film Organization (INTERFILM) and the World Catholic Association for Communication (SIGNIS) is a separate prize.
It awarded the first prize to "Gospod postoi, imeto i' e Petrunija" (God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya), directed by Teona Strugar Mitevska.
The Jury report said it gave the award, "for its daring portrayal of the transformation of a disempowered young woman into an outspoken defender of women's rights.
"When Petrunya spontaneously joins in an Orthodox Church ritual for young men by catching a cross thrown into a river by a priest, she breaks church and social traditions. Her initial refusal to return the cross unleashes her inner strength in the face of institutional conventions and reveals God within her."
The film drew standing ovations on the opening night in the Berlinale Palast and has been popular with audiences.
ECUMENICAL JURY PRIZES
The Ecumenical Jury also awarded prizes in the Panorama and Forum sections.
It made special mention in the Panorama section of a documentary filmed with three cell phones by Afghan filmmakers Hassan Fazili and his wife Fatima Hussaini.
They recorded their long flight from Afghanistan after the Islamist Taliban group put a bounty on his head.
It already received a special commendation at the Sundance Film Festival.
The Ecumenical jury report said, "Fazili's film adds urgency and immediacy to the worldwide migration crisis.
"His raw and endearing images, deepened by his wife and daughters' determined spirits, reveal hopeful humanity and enduring love in the midst of constant motion."
Since 1992, the Ecumenical Jury has handed out prizes at this annual film festival in the heart of Berlin. This year's jury consisted of six film specialists - five women and one man, three of who were North Americans: Pamela Aleman (Canada), Rev. Micah Bucey (USA), Sister Dominic Dipio (Uganda), Margrit Frölich (Germany), Anna Grebe (Germany) and Kristine Greenaway (Canada).
GOLDEN BEAR AWARD
On Feb. 16 the Berlinale International Jury, headed by French actress Juliette Binoche awarded the Golden Bear to an Israeli film "Synonyms" directed by Nadav Lapid in a Franco-German-Israeli co-production.
The Berlinale Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to Grâce à Dieu (By the Grace of God) - a film about the true story of sexual abuse of children in the Diocese of Lyon and their quest as adults to prevent their abuser, a local priest, Bernard Preynat from continuing to work with children.
After receiving his Silver Bear director Francois Ozon said, "This is a film that is fighting to break the silence which exists in the Catholic Church in France."
"We are continuing to fight against this wall of silence . And we do feel considerable resistance and that is why this award is a great surprise for us. It has given us recognition and we will continue fighting," Ozon said.
The film had its world premiere in during the Berlinale and is due to open in France on 20 February but there have been legal challenges to try and prevent it from showing.
Ozon said afterwards "The story we are describing is a real story, it actually happened this way in Lyon and now there is considerable resistance in France.
"I had difficulties producing this film, there is the intent of censorship. I don't know if it is going to be shown in the movie theaters, I don't know if people in France will be able to see it."
16 FILMS IN INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION
The Berlinale is the world's biggest audience-driven film festival.
It has low ticket prices and encouragement for participation takes place annually in February in Berlin.
During the 10 days, 406 films were shown in various sections and genres in cinemas across the German capital.
The International Competition is the center piece of the festival where films compete for the coveted Golden Bear for best film and Silver Bears for other categories.
This year the 16 films competed after the Chinese entry Yi Miao Zhong (One Second) by Zhang Yimou withdrew four days before its world premiere.
That was, "Due to technical difficulties encountered during post-production."
Agence France Presse reported that it may have been pulled for political reasons.
Awards of the Ecumenical Jury at the 69th Berlinale, 2019
Gospod postoi, imeto i' e Petrunija (God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya)
directed by Teona Strugar Mitevska, North Macedonia / Belgium / Slovenia / Croatia /
Buoyancy directed by Rodd Rathjen, Australia, 2019
Midnight Traveler directed by Hassan Fazili, USA, Great Britain, Katar, Canada, 2019
Erde (Earth) directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Austria, 2019