Awards night at the Berlin International Film Festival this past weekend was a little glitzier than it has been in past years. Besides a special Silver Bear presented to celebrate the Berlinale’s seventieth anniversary edition, a fresh round of awards were given to four films in the Encounters competition introduced this year by the new team of festival directors, Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek. For all these changes, the international jury, intentionally or not, upheld a Berlinale tradition, namely, the presentation of the Golden Bear as a political statement.
Besides the Golden Bear, There Is No Evil has also won awards from the independent Ecumenical Jury and the Association of German Art House Cinemas. “Not since [Krzysztof Kieślowski’s] A Short Film About Killing has a filmmaker produced such a thrilling case against capital punishment, an enraging, enthralling, enduring testament to the oppressed,” writes Ed Frankl at the Film Stage. Some, though, will find it difficult to disagree with Screen’s Lee Marshall, who argues that as a whole, the film “can feel loose and uneven.” After the first and most effective of the four somewhat predictable tales, the second, set inside a prison, is a stagey mess. But there’s no denying the sleek beauty of Ashkan Ashkani’s cinematography or the sincerity of the characterizations. “What I can observe from my own story,” Rasoulof tells IndieWire’s Eric Kohn, “is that the satisfaction that you receive once you resist oppression and despotism can be higher than the price you have to pay.”