Berlin Film Festival: prizes roll in for 'I Am Not Your Negro,' 'Devil's Freedom'
Maman Colonelle, doc about woman who protects Congo's vulnerable, wins two awards
Raoul Peck's documentary I Am Not Your Negro is demonstrating trans-Atlantic appeal. His film based on writings by James Baldwin was named the winner of the Panorama Audience Award on Saturday, as the Berlin Film Festival began to hand out its prizes.
IANYN held its European premiere on Wednesday, a packed screening at the Kino International theater located in what used to be East Berlin. Three subsequent screenings have sold out. A fourth screening scheduled for Sunday also is sold out.
The documentary is built around an unpublished manuscript of Baldwin's that reflected on the loss of three of his friends -- all victims of assassins -- Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers. Peck has been hailed as creating a vital work that not only exposes America's long history of racism, but its continuing failure to reckon with racial inequality.
The film was not just made for the American pubic. I think Europe and the rest of the world is having similar problems.
At Wednesday's premiere at the Berlinale, Peck told Nonfictionfilm.com he felt IANYN was relevant to an audience beyond U.S. shores.
"The film was not just made for the American pubic. I think Europe and the rest of the world is having similar problems. They just have another color, another nationality, but this is what we are experiencing throughout the world," Peck said. "You just need to see the refugee problem and you can understand that the words of Baldwin are very important today for everybody."
Chavela, directed by Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi, came in second for the Panorama Audience Award. It tells the story of the extraordinary Mexican singer Chavela Vargas [1919-2007], who lived an openly-Lesbian life at a time and place where that took considerable courage.
The grandeur of Chavela's outsized personality was matched by a rich voice that imbued extraordinary emotion into música ranchera, a form of music typical sung by men.
Ghost Hunting by Raed Andoni came in third. In his film, former Palestinian inmates of the Moskobiya interrogation center in Jerusalem reenact their interrogations in a replica of the space where they were questioned.
The Amnesty International Film Prize went to La Libertad del Diablo [Devil's Liberty] by director Everardo González, a powerful and intimate portrait of the impact of violence from Mexico's drug war. Victims and perpetrators -- each wearing a mask -- speak of the experience of losing family members -- or in the case of former assassins, of taking lives.
Maman Colonelle [Mama Colonel], directed by Dieudo Hamadi, won two prizes on Saturday -- including one presented by what is known as the "Ecumenical Jury," compromised of people representing the international film organizations of the Protestant and Catholic churches -- INTERFILM and SIGNIS, respectively.
It awards a prize to a director who succeeds "in portraying actions or human experiences that are in keeping with the Gospels, or in sensitising viewers to spiritual, human or social values."
The subject of Maman Colonelle is Colonel Honorine Munyole "a robust forty-four-year-old widow and mother of seven young children – four of her own, three adopted," as she is described in the Berlinale program. "She wields her uniform, beret and black handbag like a protective shield, which her daily work desperately requires. More or less on her own, she runs a small police unit dedicated to protecting women who’ve been raped and children who’ve suffered abuse in the war-plagued regions of the Congo."
Maman Colonelle also won the Tagesspiegel Readers Jury Award, an honor voted on by a nine-member panel representing Der Tagesspiegel, a national daily newspaper based in Berlin.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.