The Berlin International Film Festival, founded in 1950, is one of the most important festivals of cinema in Europe. Each year, Berlin transforms itself and gets covered with the iconic bear symbol, while artists from all around the world gather to discuss and present the most important cinematic news of the year. Without a doubt, the Berlinale has always been the ideal place to share and promote the next generation of filmmakers. 

Since 1992, INTERFILM and SIGNIS have been represented by the Ecumenical Jury comprised of six members who award their main prize to a film entered in the Competition. It also awards two other prizes, both worth 2,500 Euros, one to a film from the Panorama and one to a film in the Forum. The prizes go to directors who have succeeded in portraying actions or human experiences that are in keeping with the Gospel, or in sensitizing viewers to spiritual, human, or social values.

For the 2023 Edition of the Berlinale, the Ecumenical Jury - formed by the industry experts Paul De Silva (Canada), Arielle Domon (France), Kerstin Heinemann (Germany), Miriam Hollstein (Germany) as president, Anne Le Cor (France) and Alberto V. Ramos Ruiz (Cuba) - unanimously decided to award the Mexican film Totem, directed by Lila Avilès, as Best Picture. 

The film is a moving portrait of a family who is dealing with the terminal illness of a young man from the perspective of his little daughter. The story appears as an ode to life and to the briefness of it and it deals with the theme of death with extreme grace. The jury affirmed they were “genuinely blown away by the complex and sensitive way of illustrating the love holding this family together, neither false nor idealized. It also highlights how Mexican culture deals with death and celebrates life at the same time”. 

Furthermore, the Ecumenical Jury also decided to give a special mention to Sur L’Adamant by the French director Nicolas Philibert, a movie about a group of mentally challenged people in a daycare center situated on a barge of the Seine river in Paris. The Jury felt this film was a respectful depiction of the daily struggles of mental illnesses that managed at the same time to foster a deep sense of community and arouse empathy within the audience. 

In the Forum Section, the Jury awarded “Where god is not” by Iranian filmmaker and architect Mehran Tamadon. How can the horror of political imprisonment and torture be told? The director, who has lived in France since his youth and returns to his homeland time and again for projects, “has found an impressive way”, says the Jury. Mr. Tamadon places his characters Homa Kalhori, Taghi Rahmani and Mazyar Ebrahimi in a space that recreates their former prisons - “where god is not”, as one of the jailors said.  And as such, becomes a rogue scenario that triggers in their memories of past suffering, humiliation and torture. “It’s an original cinematic device allowing for a performative reenactment to sharing their harrowing experiences, which becomes a denunciation of a reality that is still Iran’s nowadays”.

The last prize was awarded at the Panorama Section to the film Sage-femmes (midwives) by French director Léa Fehner for the strong and genuine depiction of the midwife ward of a public hospital in Paris. “The film shows the intensity of their daily work and the challenges they encounter and overcome. It brilliantly shows the shortcomings of the system on one hand and the dedication of the staff accompanying women who are about to bring new lives into the world on the other hand. The seamless integration of drama and documentary adds to the impact of the film”, affirms the Jury.