The Ecumenical Jury at the 70th Berlinale film festival awarded the prize for the best film in the International Competition to an Iranian film which "reflects upon the importance of moral conscience."
Iranian authorities refused its director Mohammad Rasoulof permission to travel to Berlin.
The Ecumenical Jury appointed by the Protestant INTERFILM organization and Catholic SIGNIS, awarded its prize in the International Competition of Berlinale 2020 to the film Sheytan vojud nadaradad (There is no Evil).
"The movie reflects upon the importance of moral conscience in four episodes, telling the stories of four men who are confronted with carrying out death penalties and the people surrounding them," the release on the film read.
The jury report said that the film, "shows an impressive fundamental critique of the death penalty in general and especially of the oppressive system in Iran by means of outstanding storytelling and cinematography and the intense acting.
"In this the film is a strong statement of human dignity which constitutes us as a person in Iran and everywhere."
In a press conference in Berlin before the world premiere on Feb. 28, producer Kaveh Farnam said that the film shows that, "Even in a dictatorship we can make decisions."
FOCUS ON THE DEATH PENALTY
The film focusses on the death penalty used against regime opponents.
It is a lengthy film (150 minutes) consisting of four unrelated episodes and a fade to a black screen separates the stories.
The only unifying element is the death penalty.
In his first film at the Berlinale, Rasoulof who has had films at the Cannes film festival, deals with what the brutal human rights violation of the death penalty does.
It relates to the people who either have to carry out the death penalty as simple henchmen of the regime or oppose the system or have lost loved ones.
In the end the message is that everyone is brutalized.
The film follows the Iranian film tradition of memorable and monumental cinematography.
At the press conference a journalist spoke of an Iranian "film gen" and asked herself how under such dire circumstance Iranian filmmakers can still produce such great, monumental film art.
Mohammad Rasoulof was not allowed to travel to Berlin and his daughter Baran Rasoulof accepted the Ecumenical Jury price on his behalf.
She said she wished her father could have been there himself to accept the award.
In the film she plays Darya, a German-Iranian visiting Iran and getting entwined in a father-daughter relationship conflict.
She said that the role was "a mirror of my relationship with my father. On the basis of his political stance, I had to go through a similar process with my father."
Kaveh Farnam and Farzad Pak were the producers of the film that that was shot in Iran.
They released a statement before the premiere on Friday Feb. 28, saying they were "truly delighted and grateful that There is No Evil has been selected" to compete in the main competition of the Berlin film festival.
"However, we must express our deepest regrets and loudest frustrations at the limitations faced by the creator of this outstanding work of artistry. We feel obligated to apologize to the attendees for Mohammad Rasoulof's absence," they said.