‘Dahomey,’ Documentary About Looted Artwork, Wins Top Prize at Berlin Film Festival

The top prize at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival was given to “Dahomey,” a documentary by the French filmmaker Mati Diop about 26 looted artworks that were returned to Benin from France in 2021.

The unconventional feature, narrated in part by the gravelly, imagined voice of one of the artworks, is a playful exploration of the legacy of colonialism and the interplay between history and identity in present-day Benin. It is Diop’s first feature since “Atlantics,” a drama about Senegalese migrants that won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019.

In Diop’s acceptance speech for the prize, known as the Golden Bear, she said that “Dahomey” was part of the “collapsing wall of silence” around the need to return artworks looted by colonial powers to their original owners. “We can either get rid of the past as an imprisoning burden,” she said, “or we can take responsibility for it.”

This year’s jury was led by the Kenyan Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o and included the German director Christian Petzold, whose film “Afire” won the runner-up prize at last year’s festival in Berlin, and the Spanish director Albert Serra.

Ha Seong-guk and Isabelle Huppert in “A Traveler’s Needs,” directed by Hong Sang-soo.Credit…Jeonwonsa Film Company

This year’s runner-up prize was presented to “A Traveler’s Needs,” by the prolific Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo, who also won awards at three of the last five editions of the event. His typically understated film stars Isabelle Huppert as an eccentric Frenchwoman who has a series of encounters in Seoul.

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