Working our way through this year’s Competition line-up has at times proven a less than thrilling experience. Griping about the quality of the Golden Bear contenders seems to be something of a Berlinale tradition, but we remain baffled that the likes of Thomas Arlsan’s dull-as-dishwater Bright Nights and Oren Moverman’s inexcusably messy The Dinner were deemed worthy contenders. Their inclusion seems particularly egregious given the smattering of truly great films appearing elsewhere in the programme, although many of our absolute favourites – Call Me By Your Name, God’s Own Country, I Am Not Your Negro, The Lost City of Z – were rendered ineligible for awards on account of having already screened at other festivals.
And yet, while the unexpected masterpiece we were longing for never quite materialised, there were a handful of gems nestled among the disappointments. The Other Side of Hope, Aki Kaurismaki’s typically droll take on the migrant crisis, has a handful of detractors, but we’re firmly in the sizeable camp that loved it. Darkly comic Chinese crime drama Have a Nice Day proved an enjoyably offbeat surprise, while there was plenty to admire about Hungary’s On Body or Soul and Poland’s Spoor, although both films had their flaws. Meanwhile On the Beach at Night Alone sees the ever-dependable Korean auteur Hong Sangsoo on fine form, but the film doesn’t quite live up to his best efforts.
When it comes to the acting awards, there are plenty of solid female performances to pick from, including Véro Tshanda Beya in Félicité, Kim Minhee in On the Beach…, and Nina Hoss in Return to Montauk. But the jury also has the chance to make history by being the first to give a major festival award to a trans actress, so A Fantastic Woman’s Daniela Vega has to be the one to beat. There’s no such clear frontrunner among the male performances, but Chen Chan (Mr Long), Josef Hader (Wild Mouse) and Julio Machado (Joaquim) have all got to be in with a strong chance.
And so, following an extended bout of procrastination, and resisting the strong urge to hedge our bets with a couple of guesses for each category, here’s how we think things might pan out tonight.
Golden Bear: The Other Side of Hope
Grand Jury Prize: On the Beach Alone at Night
Alfred Bauer Prize (for a feature film that opens new perspectives): Have a Nice Day
Best Director: Agnieszka Holland, Spoor
Best Actress: Daniela Vega, A Fantastic Woman
Best Actor: Julio Machado, Joaquim
Best Screenplay: Sally Potter, The Party