It is before this particular backdrop that the full power of the International Jury’s decision about the winner of the 2016 Golden Bear becomes apparent: the award went to Fuocoammare, a documentary-style film by Italian director Gianfranco Rosi. It tells the story of Lampedusa, a small Mediterranean island which, for years, has been a focal point of all the wretchedness of being a refugee: a place which at once symbolises the past, the present and the future of the new world order. The personified memory of this despair, the doctor Pietro Bartolo who has followed the movement of refugees since 1991 and has had to tally the number of deaths and raped women on a daily basis, provided for one of the most emotional press conferences of the festival. To see in order to tell: at stake above all else was the visibility of this new world. In the words of Festival Director Dieter Kosslick: “We are seeing the migration of 60 million to 70 million people around the world in front of our eyes. A worldwide catastrophe is happening and we can’t say, as the Germans said in 1945, we didn’t see it, we had no idea” (in an interview with Leo Barraclough in Variety, February 19, 2016).
In this regard, the timing of the 66th Berlinale was a stroke of luck, since the filmmakers had already begun working on their films months or even years before. Hence Gerhard Midding’s accusation that the Competition was “dominated by the current topics of do-gooders’ cinema” (Der Freitag, February 25, 2016) was unfounded. “Rosi’s brilliant images, which neither lose their clarity at night nor under water, [...] make it clear that this film is compelling not only in its subject matter but also aesthetically. The footage of a group of refugees silhouetted against the light whilst their bodies are wrapped in rustling golden survival foil, is unforgettable” (Hannah Pilarczyk, Spiegel Online, February 13, 2016).
In 2016 the filmmakers interrogated their own capabilities and the implications of their medium. Whilst reviews resorted with striking frequency to the word “reality” to characterise the 66th edition (“reality wins”, “triumph of reality”), it became increasingly apparent that the concept of a monolithic REALITY as such was obsolete. This was visible in films including Fuocoammare in which lives run parallel to each other with hardly any points of intersection. There are the islanders and there are the refugees – and they have very little in common.