Berlinale Film Festival welcomes back moviegoers despite Omicron concerns
Trent Murray in Berlin

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, Germany's famous Berlinale International Film Festival has welcomed back cinemagoers for in-person screenings in its regular format.

The festival's top prize, known as the Berlinale Golden Bear, went to Spanish director Carla Simon for her film 'Alcarras.' The film explores the divisions ripped into a close-knit family of Catalan farmers when they face eviction from their ancestral plot.

"I am wordless, I am speechless. And I'm very happy that the jury kind of gave value to the film because it was a difficult film to make and there is a lot of love and a lot of souls that put the effort in it so I'm happy to see that somehow it crosses the screen and people get that," said Simon.

Return of the red carpet


Cinemagoers were able to once again gather at Potsdamer Platz, in the heart of the German capital, to enjoy a wide variety of feature length films, short films and documentaries as part of this year's festival.

Over 250 entries from 69 different countries are part of this year's competition, including two Chinese films.

Yin Ru Chen Yan, or 'Return to Dust'  tells the story of a farmer and a disabled woman who both live a seemingly sheltered and difficult life. While an arranged marriage between the two is expected to make things worse, they quickly discover a shared passion and purpose, which is tied to the land.

The film's director, Li Ruijun, explained to CGTN the inspiration behind the film;

"I was born in the village where the film was shot," he said.

"The unique features of the local environment of my hometown inspired me in making this film. Many people have been living here for decades and can tolerate anything that happens around them, no matter if it is good or bad. There are communities which could easily be neglected and unrepresented."

"Life is like a marathon. Runners in the front will of course catch a lot of attention. But personally, I would like to focus on the last one or two. I think everybody strives to survive and deserves to be seen," he added.


Return of a classic

Berlinale has also played host to the world premiere of a remastered version of  Suzhou River - a film widely heralded as a classic of modern Chinese cinema.

The plotline centers around a tragic love story set against the backdrop of an uprooted generation in modern Shanghai. Tickets for both screenings of the film sold out quickly.

Magic of the silver screen

Festival organizers have faced criticism for their decision to push ahead with this year's event in-person given the ongoing concerns over the Omicron wave. But they have responded with strict hygiene protocols, including the need for moviegoers to show proof of vaccination and the need to wear a high-filtering FFP2 masks during the screenings.

Cover image: Christian Mang/Reuters

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