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Dahomey awarded in Berlin by default

From our special correspondent in Berlin.

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Dahomey awarded in Berlin by default

From our special correspondent in Berlin

Mati Diop, stupid guy? After a grand prize at Cannes in 2019 for her first feature film, Atlantique, the 41-year-old Franco-Senegalese director won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale with Dahomey. A transition from fiction to documentary to tell the story of France's restitution of 26 royal treasures from Dahomey to Benin in November 2021. Twenty-six out of thousands looted by French colonial troops in 1892. The filmmaker first films the setting box of works at the Musée du quai Branly before their repatriation to their land of origin.

But Mati Diop above all gives a voice to the students of the University of Abomey Calavi. Their debate is the heart of the film. They question the fact of expressing themselves in French, the language of the colonizer, the political aims of this restitution (propaganda of Presidents Macron and Patrice Talon?), the status of these objects in a country where museum culture is non-existent… Each intervention goes in a different direction. If no film can exhaust such a subject, Dahomey, quite lazy in its form, only touches on fascinating questions in sixty-seven minutes. However, this was enough to convince Mexican-Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o, the first black artist to chair the jury at the Berlinale.

Dahomey follows Sur l'Adamant, the first part on psychiatry by Nicolas Philibert. Already a French documentary. We can see, implicitly, the weakness of the fictions proposed by the Berlin competition. However, it was necessary to complete the list. The grand prize awarded to A Traveler's Needs, by Hong Sang-soo, looks like a hoax. We see Isabelle Huppert giving French lessons in English to South Koreans.

The jury prize goes to The Empire, by Bruno Dumont, a ch'ti version of Star Wars already in theaters. The German Matthias Glasner received the prize for best screenplay for Sterben, the story of a couple at the end of their lives (Parkinson's, cancer) and their two children, adults with ordinary setbacks (alcohol, relationship). A little air of Michael Haneke, sentimentalism and more.

The non-gendered interpretation prize goes to the American Sebastian Stan for A Different Man, by Aaron Schimberg. He plays Edward, an aspiring New York actor with a disease that distorts his face. Stan could have shared the prize with his partner Adam Pearson, who actually suffers from neurofibromatosis, in what looks like a remake of Elephant Man by Woody Allen. Emily Watson, for her role as Mother Superior in the insignificant Small Things Like These, won the award for best supporting role. We didn't get to see Pepe. It won the Dominican Nelson Carlos de Los Santos Arias the prize for directing. It could be the ghost of a hippopotamus. Not to be confused with Léo Ferré's chimpanzee.

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