Berlinale Documentary Award

The Berlin International Film Festival has long been committed to the diversity of documentary forms. A distinct award for the best documentary film was launched in 2017. As of 2020, the Berlinale Documentary Award, endowed with 40,000 Euro in prize money, will be sponsored by public broadcaster Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (rbb).

In total, 16 documentary forms from the sections Competition, Berlinale Special, Encounters, Panorama, Forum, Generation and Perspektive Deutsches Kino were nominated for the Berlinale Documentary Award. The prize money will be shared by the director and the producer of the winning film.

The award was presented during the official Award Ceremony at the Freiluftkino Museumsinsel on June 13.

Award Winner 2021

Alice Diop

Nous (We)
by Alice Diop
produced by Sophie Salbot

Jury statement:
The feminist principle of writing autobiographically, even if it hurts, redoubled the bet in this film. The “I” becomes a “We” and the We becomes a tempered I which travels the territory with the cadence of uncertainty. Due to Alice Diop’s curiosity about the human condition and her thoughtful language (or: the thoughtfulness in the language), the jury unanimously decided to give her the Berlinale Documentary Award for her film Nous.

Special Mention

The First 54 Years – An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation
by Avi Mograbi
produced by Camille Laemlé, Serge Lalou

Jury statement:
Cinema can be looked at, but perhaps the most moving cinema is the one that looks at us, and with that look, transfers our very existence to another dimension. With very few visual and auditory resources, a handful of archive images and a profound insistence to tell, with more faith in art than in humanity, this film forces us to look and reflect on land, humans, politics, conscience, and challenges our comfortable understanding. The special mention of the jury goes to The First 54 Years – An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation by Avi Mograbi.

The 2021 Jury

Albertina Carri (Argentina)

Albertina Carri is an Argentinian director, producer and scriptwriter. Throughout her career, she had made several short films, telefilms, TV series, video installations and feature films, such as I Won’t Go Back Home (2000), The Blondes (2003), Gemini (2005) The Rage (2008), Rustlers (2017) and The Daughters of Fire (2018). She has received multiple awards at the festivals of Gijón, Las Palmas, Barcelona, Valencia, Havana, Transylvania, New York, Monterrey, Cali and Buenos Aires. She was the artistic director of Asterisco LGBTTIQ + International Film Festival for its first four editions and now works there as a programmer. In 2021 she will publish her first novel, “May the waves roar” and the poetry book “Blind Portraits”. She is currently a DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Fellow.

© Alejandra Lopez

Orwa Nyrabia (Syria)

Orwa Nyrabia is the Artistic Director of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. He also co-founded Syria’s first independent film festival, DOX BOX, in 2008 together with Diana El Jeiroudi and was an award-winning film producer for Notturno (Gianfranco Rosi, Venice 2020), Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait (Ossama Mohammad, Cannes 2014), Return to Homs (Talal Derki, IDFA 2013) and Dolls - A Woman from Damascus (Diana El Jeiroudi, IDFA 2007), among others. For his work he won the George Polk Award, the Courage in Filmmaking Award of Human Rights Watch and the European Documentary Network Award. An actor by training (The Gate of the Sun by Y. Nassrallah, Cannes 2004), he started his film career as first assistant to Ossama Mohammad (Sacrifices, Cannes 2002). He now lives in Berlin, where he co-founded No Nation Films GmbH in 2014.

© Roger Cremers 2019

Janna Ji Wonders (Germany / USA)

Janna Ji Wonders is a film director and singer. Her documentary films Bling Bling (2002) and Street Punk Moscow (2005) screened at international festivals and won several awards. Her feature film I Remember premiered at Perspektive Deutsches Kino in 2015. She received two prizes for the documentary film Walchensee Forever: in 2016 she was awarded with the “Made in Germany – Perspektive Fellowship“ for its treatment and in 2020 at the world premiere of the film with the Compass-Perspektive-Award. The documentary film also received the Bavarian Film Award and the Deutscher Kamerapreis, as well as prizes at numerous festivals in Germany and abroad. Walchensee Forever has been pre-selected for the German Film Award 2021.

© Michael Reusse

The following 16 films were nominated for the Berlinale Documentary Award, sponsored by public broadcaster Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (rbb):

Competition (2)

Herr Bachmann und seine Klasse (Mr Bachmann and His Class)
by Maria Speth

Una película de policías (A Cop Movie)
by Alonso Ruizpalacios

Encounters (2)

As I Want
Egypt / France / Norway / Palestine / Germany
by Samaher Alqadi

Nous (We)
by Alice Diop

Berlinale Special (2)

by Aliaksei Paluyan

Per Lucio (For Lucio)
by Pietro Marcello

Panorama (4)

A Última Floresta (The Last Forest)
by Luiz Bolognesi

Dirty Feathers
USA / Mexico
by Carlos Alfonso Corral

Miguel's War
Lebanon / Germany / Spain
by Eliane Raheb

North By Current
by Angelo Madsen Minax

Forum (4)

À pas aveugles (From Where They Stood)
France / Germany
by Christophe Cognet

A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces
by Shengze Zhu

The First 54 Years – An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation
France / Finland / Israel / Germany
by Avi Mograbi

Garderie nocturne (Night Nursery)
Burkina Faso / France / Germany
by Moumouni Sanou

Generation (1)

From the Wild Sea
by Robin Petré

Perspektive Deutsches Kino (1)

In Bewegung bleiben (Keep Moving)
by Salar Ghazi