The festival's top prize goes to a nonfiction film touching on the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean
Gianfranco Rosi's documentary Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea) won the Golden Bear at the 66th Berlinale, the top prize at one of the world's most important film festivals.
Actress Meryl Streep headed an international jury that awarded the honor to a film which touches on the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, as seen through the experience of a boy (Samuele Pucillo) on the island of Lampedusa, where the bodies of many of those fleeing conflict in North Africa wash ashore.
"Every day the inhabitants of Lampedusa are bearing witness to the greatest humanitarian tragedy of our times," the Berlinale said in its program.
Fuocoammare's victory came over a field dominated by narrative films featuring such stars as Oscar winners Emma Thompson and Colin Firth, as well as Joel Edgerton, Brendan Gleeson, Jude Law, Laura Linney and Guy Pearce. Fuocoammare also triumphed over another documentary in competition, Alex Gibney's Zero Days, a film about the Stuxnet computer virus.
"Gianfranco Rosi’s observations of everyday life bring us closer to this place [Lampedusa] that is as real as it is symbolic, and to the emotional world of some of its inhabitants who are exposed to a permanent state of emergency," the Berlinale wrote of Fuocoammare. "At the same time his film, which is commentary-free, describes how, even in the smallest of places, two worlds barely touch."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.