Leads for Wang Xiaoshuai’s ‘So Long, My Son’ win Silver Bears

By Global Times - Agencies Source:Global Times - AFP Published: 2019/2/17 17:08:39

Wang Jingchun (left) and Yong Mei pose for a picture with their respective Silver Bears for Best Actor/Actress on Saturday in Berlin. Photo: VCG

Chinese netizens cheered on Sunday morning when news hit that director Wang Xiaoshuai's new film So Long, My Son had grabbed two Silver Bear trophies for its lead actress Yong Mei and actor Wang Jingchun at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival, or Berlinale. 

This marks the first time that a single Chinese film has won both best actress and best actor at the Berlinale, and is the most recent win for a Chinese film in the competition section since Yang Chao's Crosscurrent won the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution for Cinematography in 2016.

"Congratulations to Dad and Mom!!! So Long, My Son!!! Director Xiaoshuai [thumbs up]," Roy Wang, the Chinese pop star who plays Yong and Wang Jingchun's son in the film, wrote in a post on Sina Weibo on Sunday morning that was reposted more than 140,000 times in just a few hours.  

Reflecting on the past

With 10 or so films from Chinese directors scheduled to show at the Berlinale, this year was seen as a "big year for Chinese film" by Chinese media. Yet after Zhang Yimou's One Second was pulled due to "technical difficulties," Wang Xiaoshuai's family drama was given higher attention since it became the only Chinese film remaining in competition. 

Spanning a period of 30 years, So Long, My Son tells the story of a Chinese family dealing with China's decades-long one child policy: Having already had a son, Wang Liyun (Yong) is forced to have an abortion when she gets pregnant with a second child. Adding to their grief, their boy drowns while swimming with his friends as a teen.   

After the film premiered in Berlin, it received positive reviews from critics. The film currently holds an 8.1/10 on film site IMDb.

Calling the film an "epic" in its review, Variety wrote that while Wang Xiaoshuai is a familiar name at the Berlinale with his wins for Beijing Bicycle (2001) and In Love We Trust (2008), "but So Long, My Son is, thematically if not formally, his most ambitious project to date, and not just because it is his longest."

In an interview with Chinese movie platform Mtime, Wang said that his interest in the development of contemporary China and the side effects of its rapid developing economy were the main factors behind his decision to make the film. He added that his goal was to reflect on the past so the same mistakes could be avoided.  

Paying tribute

China wasn't the only country to have a great showing at the festival. Israeli director Nadav Lapid won the Golden Bear top prize on Saturday for Synonyms, a film about an expatriate in Paris wrestling with his identity.

Lapid said that the semi-autobiographical movie, which deals with a young man who has fled Israel over its fraught political situation, might cause a "scandal" in his home country.

"But for me the film is also a big celebration... of cinema," he said.

The runner-up jury prize went to French filmmaker Francois Ozon By the Grace of God, a wrenching drama based on real-life survivors of rampant sexual molestation in the Catholic church.

"The film tries to break the silence in powerful institutions," he said.

"I want to share this prize with the victims of sexual abuse."

German filmmaker Angela Schanelec won the best director prize for I Was At Home, But, a drama about a grieving widow and her wayward son.

Schanelec, 57, was one of a record seven women among the 16 contenders in the competition at the Berlinale, Europe's first cinema showcase of the year.

The awards ceremony began with a tribute and standing ovation for Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, who starred in iconic German films such as Downfall in which he played Adolf Hitler and Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire set in divided Berlin.

Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick earlier called him "one of the greatest and most versatile actors," who made "international film history." 

"Now he is truly in the heavens above Berlin," he said in a play on the Wenders film's German title, Der Himmel ueber Berlin.

Biggest Winners at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival 

Golden Bear for Best Film: Synonyms, Nadav Lapid, France/Israel/Germany

Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear: By the Grace of God, Francois Ozon, France

Silver Bear for Best Director: Angela Schanelec for I Was at Home, But, Germany/Serbia 

Silver Bear for Best Actress: Yong Mei for So Long, My Son, China 

Silver Bear for Best Actor: Wang Jingchun for So Long, My Son, China

Silver Bear for Best Screenplay: Maurizio Braucci, Claudio Giovannesi and Roberto Saviano for Piranhas, Italy 

Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for Work that Opens New Perspectives: System Crasher, Nora Fingscheidt, Germany

Teddy for Best Feature Film with Gay or Lesbian Context: Brief Story from the Green Planet, Santiago Loza, Argentina/Germany/Brazil/Spain

Teddy for Best Documentary Film with Gay or Lesbian Context: Lemebel, Joanna Reposi, Chile/Colombia
Newspaper headline: Shared win


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