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  • Mar 02, 2020

Mohammad Rasoulof Wins Best Film at Berlinale

The 70th Berlin International Film Festival announced winners of its 2020 awards on February 29 at its closing ceremony. The Berlinale’s top award, the Golden Bear, went to Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof for his film There is No Evil (2020), produced in secret, as Rasoulof has been banned from social and political activities as well as from leaving Iran since 2017.

Composed of four sections, the anthology revolves around the Iranian death penalty. One of the episodes was inspired by the director’s chance encounter with the man who previously interrogated him in prison, during which he followed the man on his errands run, eventually realizing the mundanity and limitation of the man’s life. While Rasoulof’s previous works have focused on the darker side of resistance against political oppressions, he explained that with his latest film he wanted to discuss “people who push responsibility away from themselves and say that the decision is taken by higher powers. But they can actually say no, and that’s their strength,” as reported by BBC. 

Rasoulof was arrested in Iran in 2010 on accusations of filming without a permit, for which he served one year in prison. He was later charged with propaganda in 2017 for his film A Man of Integrity (2017), which depicts a countryside goldfish farmer’s battle against corruption, leading him to be imprisoned once again. The piece won the Un Certain Regard Award at the 70th Cannes Film Festival. In July 2019, organizers of Cannes as well as the New York Film Festival called for his release. Meanwhile, the film’s French distributor, ARP Sélection, initiated an online petition urging the Iranian government to release the director, citing his “continued attention to political injustice through his art” regardless of the censorship.

Other Asia-Pacific directors also celebrated their achievements at the Berlinale, including Korean director Hong Sang-soo, who won Best Director for his episodic film about marriage and women, The Woman Who Ran (2020), while Cambodian director Rithy Panh won Best Documentary for Irradiés (2020), a combination of colored and black-and-white film and photos that reflect on the trauma of those who lived through the Khmer Rouge regime.

Rasoulof’s daughter Baran Rasoulof, who also starred in There is No Evil, received the Golden Bear on his behalf.

Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor. 

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