French-Senegalese director makes history at Berlinale; top awards for Sebastian Stan, Emily Watson

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Berlin, February 25 (IANS) French-Senegalese actor-turned-director Mati Diop made history twice over at the Berlin Film Festival awards ceremony on Saturday night.

She became the first Black director ever to win the Golden Bear, the festival's top prize, and her documentary 'Dahomey' is the second non-fiction feature to win the honour after the French filmmaker Nicolas Philibert's triumph last year with his film 'On the Adamant', reports 'Variety'.

'Dahomey', a 67-minute documentary, is centred around France's 2021 return of 26 ancient artefacts from the Kingdom of Dahomey to Benin, an attempted correction of 19th-century colonialist injustice, 'Variety' notes.

It also adds that the film's 67-minute running time makes it the shortest film to take the Bear since James Algar's doc short 'In Beaver Valley' way back in 1951, the festival's first year.

Erstwhile Marvel star Sebastian Stan got the Best Leading Performance award for his role in US director Aaron Schimberg's provocative black comedy 'A Different Man', playing a man with neurofibromatosis whose life falls apart following a miracle cure, adds 'Variety'.

Two-time Oscar nominee Emily Watson won the award for a supporting role for her chilling performance in the festival opener 'Small Things Like These', playing a mother superior concealing Magdalene laundry abuses in 1980s Ireland.

Accepting her award, according to 'Variety', the British actor thanked co-star Cillian Murphy -- the film's lead and producer, although he's now better known for 'Oppenheimer' -- for including her in his passion project.

'No Other Land', though, turned out to be the night's most popular and topical winner, says 'Variety'. The documentary is a devastating on-the-ground study of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation, directed by a four-person Palestinian-Israeli collective.

Juror Thomas Heise described the film as "[showing] us how the inhuman, ignorant politics of the Israeli government consciously wreaks havoc". He continued: "Bearing witness and doing this responsibly and precisely -- that is the true basis of any documentary film."

Accepting the award, the film's Palestinian subject and co-director Basel Adra said: "It's hard for me to celebrate when tens of thousands of my people are being slaughtered in Gaza." He went on to urge other nations to "respect the UN calls and stop sending weapons to Israel".