Catalan rural drama ‘Alcarràs’ wins Berlin film festival

The 72nd Berlin film festival awarded its Golden Bear top prize on Wednesday to Spanish director Carla Simón's semi-autobiographical drama "Alcarràs", about a family of peach farmers fighting for their future.

alcarras Berlin film fest
Spanish director and screenwriter Carla Simón speaks after being awarded the Golden Bear for Best Film award for the film "Alcarras" during the awards ceremony of the 72nd Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin on February 16, 2022. (Photo by Stefanie LOOS / AFP)

This year’s Berlinale was in-person for the first time in two years but held a shorter competition than usual, with strict regulations for audiences just as Covid-19 infections were peaking in Germany.

There were 18 films from 15 countries vying for the Golden Bear, with the jury led by Indian-born American director M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”).

Simón, 35, dedicated the prize to her family, saying that “without them and my closeness to this world I wouldn’t have been able to tell this story”.

The Berlinale is now the third major European film festival in a row to award its top prize to a woman director, following Cannes and Venice last year.

German-Turkish comedian Meltem Kaptan, 41, won the festival’s second ever gender-neutral acting prize for her performance in “Rabiye Kurnaz vs George W. Bush”.

The film by German director Andreas Dresen tells the true story of a mother’s battle to bring her son back from Guantanamo Bay.

Kaptan dedicated the award “to all the mothers whose love is stronger than borders”.

‘Sly humour’

On a big night for women, France’s Claire Denis clinched best director for “Both Sides of the Blade”, a tense love story that stars Juliette Binoche as a woman caught between two men — her longtime partner Jean and her elusive ex Francois.

The Hollywood Reporter called it a “smart, moody, superbly acted melodrama”, while Britain’s Screen Daily said Binoche and co-star Vincent Lindon, who plays Jean, were “at the top of their game”.

“The Novelist’s Film”, an understated drama from South Korean director Hong Sang-soo with a small cast of characters who reconnect by chance in the suburbs of Seoul, bagged second prize.

Variety called it a “gently circuitous, conversation-driven charmer”, while the Hollywood Reporter praised its “sly humour and insights into the insecurities of the artistic process”.

Third prize went to “Robe of Gems”, a gritty Mexican crime drama from writer-director Natalia Lopez Gallardo that explores the trauma inflicted on families in Mexico when relatives go missing.

The award for best screenplay went to Laila Stieler for her work on “Rabiye Kurnaz vs George W. Bush”.

“Everything Will be OK”, Cambodian Rithy Panh’s exploration of a dystopian future where animals have enslaved humans and taken over the world, won a Silver Bear for artistic contribution.

And Michael Koch’s meditation on death and loss set in the Alps, “A Piece of Sky”, received a special mention.

The cast of Alcarràs on the red carpet during the 72nd Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin on February 15, 2022. (Photo by Stefanie LOOS / AFP) 

‘Vulnerable childhood’

Set in Catalonia, “Alcarràs” follows the story of the Sole clan, a large, tight-knit family who spend their summers picking peaches in their orchard in a small village.

But when they are threatened with eviction due to new plans for the land, which include cutting down the peach trees and installing solar panels, the family members start to drift apart.

Variety called it a “lovely, bittersweet agricultural drama”, praising Simón’s “warm affinity for this alternately parched and verdant landscape”.

“I think that this way of farming does not have much of a future,” Simón told AFP ahead of the premiere of the film on Tuesday.

“There is very little price regulation, there are more and more big companies that are farming… Only in organic farming do I see some hope, because it is a kind of farming that is difficult to do in a big way,” she said.

Simón also said she enjoyed working with children for the film.

“It’s natural for me, I think it has to do with the fact that I had a somewhat vulnerable childhood, I identify with them,” she said.

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Catalans are the least popular among Spaniards: survey

What do people in Spain’s different regions really think of one another and is regional identity really all that important? The results of a recently-published survey reveal all.

Catalans are the least popular among Spaniards: survey

Anyone who knows Spain relatively well will be aware that it’s a diverse country and that not all Spaniards hum the national anthem with pride

A survey published on April 12th 2022 by Barcelona’s prestigious ESADE private educational institution has analysed the nature and gauged the severity of polarisation in Spain.

One of their standout conclusions is that of all regional groups, Catalans are the least favoured among Spaniards, although there actually isn’t a huge difference between the regions.

The results showed that the Catalans were slightly less popular among Spanish citizens in all regions, apart from in the Basque Country.

However, Spaniards generally approve of one another, whatever region they’re from, ESADE found. 

The results reflect that the high level of tension in politics is not actually a true reflection of what people from different regions think of one another. In fact, the survey’s findings indicate that there does not seem to be a problem of coexistence at all. 

READ ALSO – The good, the bad and the ugly: What are the regional stereotypes across Spain?

ESADE’s survey reveals that the region Spaniards come from doesn’t actually appear to be defining for their personal identity. More than 70 percent of the Spanish population indicated that regional identity was “not at all” or barely “somewhat” important. 

Most frequently, Spaniards indicated that they felt a dual territorial identity – both Spanish and regional.  

The greatest differences were seen in Catalonia where exclusive identification with the region was the highest, but still under half at 21 percent.  

Valencia was the region where the highest number of citizens identified as being exclusively Spanish at 31 percent.

The study found that when one of your parents is from a region different from the one where you live, the probability of identifying with your region decreases significantly.

Unlike the national sample, in Catalonia the assessment of coexistence between the regions is conditioned by political attitudes – those with more regional identities value coexistence more.

The survey also found that unsurprisingly, citizens of Catalonia and the Basque Country are more against centralisation and more in favour of decentralisation than the rest. They are also more averse to moving to other regions in Spain.

All things considered, it seems that despite some regional differences and light animosity, most Spaniards from all corners of the country recognise their regional neighbours as their countrymen and countrywomen.

They also have plenty in common, such as their generally low levels of institutional trust, with no administration (local, regional, central or European) scoring high in any territory.