Best Documentary ‘Dahome’ in Berlin

Benin is a democratic country in West Africa. Its former name was Dahomey. Director Mati Diop made the documentary ‘Dahome’ about the recovery of looted artefacts from Benin and the impact of their return to the country. This documentary won the Golden Bear, the highest award at the 74th Berlin Film Festival this year.
This recognition was handed over to director Mati Diop last Saturday (February 25). This is the second time an African film has won the Golden Bear at the Berlin festival. In 2015, British-South African director Mark Dornford May’s South African opera film ‘Bride Amphephamlo’ won the honour.
The documentary won the Golden Bear for two consecutive events in Berlin. In 2023, ‘On the Adamant’ directed by French director Nicolas Philibert won the Golden Bear.
This year, Oscar-winning Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o was the head of the judges in the main competition category. He was led by actor-director Brady Corbett, actress-director Jazmin Trinka, Chinese director Ann Wei, German director Cristian Petsoit, Spanish director Alberte Chera and Ukrainian fiction writer Oksana Zabajko.
After winning the Golden Bear, Mati Diop said, ‘It’s a great opportunity to bring a little-known story to the screen. France has done everything to hide this fact. An attempt has been made to define a fact in such a way as to provide salvation. We are among those who refuse to forget. Rebuilding requires restoration first.’
Making a political statement, Mati Diop said, ‘I stand by Palestine.’ Many like him have called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian Gaza Strip while attending Berlin. Mati Diop’s first feature film Atlantics won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2019. She made history as the first black female director to win a place in Cannes’ main competition. The closing film of the 11-day festival in the German capital Berlin was ‘Dahome’. It was co-produced by Av Raban, Judith Lou Levy and Mati Diop.
Israel-Palestine’s ‘No Other Land’ won the Best Documentary Award. It highlights the struggle to protect the village of Basel Adrar, a builder in the West Bank. ‘No Other Land’ is co-directed by Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham. The Jury Prize was won by South Korea’s “A Traveler’s Needs,” directed by Hong Sang-soo. The Jury Prize went to French director Bruno Dumont’s ‘The Empire’.
Dominican Republic’s Nelson Carlo de los Santos won Best Director for ‘Pepe’, based on the American hippopotamus. Romanian-American star Sebastian Stan won the best actor award for his outstanding portrayal of neurofibromatosis sufferer Edward in ‘A Different Man’. The opening film of the festival is ‘Small Things Like These’.
British actress Emily Watson won the best supporting actress award for her performance in this film. The best screenplay went to German director Matthias Glasner’s ‘Dying’. The award for outstanding artistic contribution went to cinematographer Martin Geschlacht for the film “The Devil’s Bath” directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. American director Martin Scorsese received the honorary Golden Bear Award at this year’s event.