adav Lapid’s Synonymes, a drama about an Israeli who tries to forget his roots during an extended Parisian sojourn, took the Golden Bear, the top prize at the 69th Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday night.
It was a controversial choice, dividing audiences between those who thought it was pretentious, self-indulgent drivel and those who saw in it a profound statement about the elusive nature of identity.
Lapid, whose previous films are Policeman and The Kindergarten Teacher (which was recently remade in English), dedicated this award to the memory of his mother, film editor Era Lapid, who died while editing this film. His father, Haim Lapid, co-wrote the film and stood onstage with him.
“Synonymes is a film that might be defined in Israel as a scandal… but for me the film is also a celebration,” Lapid said.
Earlier this week, Synonymes won the FIPRESCI critics’ award.
This Berlinale closing ceremony marked the last picture show for festival director Dieter Kosslick, who is leaving after 18 very productive and influential years at the helm.
He has been a strong supporter of Israeli films throughout his career, so it was fitting that an Israeli film won the Golden Bear in Kosslick’s final year.
Truly a superstar festival director, he signed as many autographs on the red carpet as the stars (including jury president Juliette Binoche), and a coterie of admirers dressed in Kosslick’s trademark fedora, bear pins and red scarf lined the street near the Berlinale Palast at Marlene-Dietrich-Platz, where the closing ceremony took place.
The audience gave Kosslick a standing ovation. Wiping away tears, his remarks were brief and funny, as he joked. “I can’t bear it anymore,” making reference to the animal that is the symbol of the festival and the city.