Berlinale winner Diop 'stands with Palestine'

Saturday March 02 2024

Director Mati Diop poses with the Golden Bear for Best Film for 'Dahomey', after the award ceremony of the 74th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany on February 24, 2024. PHOTO | REUTERS


Dahomey, by Franco-Senegalese director Mati Diop won the Berlin International Film Festival’s Golden Bear prize for best film.

The documentary follows the journey of 26 plundered royal treasures from the Kingdom of Dahomey exhibited in Paris, now being returned to Benin. Diop artistically voices a new generation’s demands.

It is set in November 2021, when 26 royal treasures of the Kingdom of Dahomey are about to leave Paris to return to their country of origin, the present-day Republic of Benin. Along with thousands of others, these artefacts were plundered by French colonial troops in 1892.

“To rebuild we must first restore, and to restitute we must do justice,” Diop said in her acceptance speech. “We are among those who refuse to forget.”

While calling for a ceasefire in Gaza like many other prizewinners and jury members during the awards ceremony, Diop said, “I stand with Palestine. And I’m so happy that this film brings a little hope and most of all perspectives.”

Dahomey became the second documentary to win the festival’s top prize, the Golden Bear, after 2023 French documentary winner On the Adamant. The one-hour-eight-minute film that is named after the ancient powerful Kingdom of Dahomey was produced by Les Films du Bal in co-production with Fanta Sy and distributed by Les Films du Losange.


Dahomey had its world premiere on February 18, as part of the 74th Berlin International Film Festival. It will be released in French theaters on September 25. It is also only the second African film to win the top prize at Berlin, following Mark Dornford-May’s South African operatic drama Breathe Umphefumlo (U-Carmen eKhayelitsha) in 2015.

Diop’s film work since the 2000s has established her as a representative of a new wave of African and Afro-diasporic culture. Her 2019 feature film Atlantics won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2019. She sees cinema as a tool of reappropriation to restore lost images, question degrading colonial representations and invent new heroes.

Her other films are Atlantiques (2010), Snow Canon (2011), Big in Vietnam (2012), Mille Soleils (2013), Atlantique (2019), and In My Room (2020).

A documentary about the plight of Palestinians displaced by Israeli troops and armed settlers, in the occupied West Bank titled No Other Land won the Berlinale Documentary Award.

Directed by a Palestinian-Israeli collective No Other Land dwells on the efforts of the Palestinian filmmaker Basel Adra to preserve his West Bank village as Israeli settlers forcefully occupy it.

“I’m here celebrating the award, but also very hard for me to celebrate when there are tens of thousands of my people being slaughtered and massacred by Israel in Gaza," Adra said.

The co-director, Yuval Abraham lamented: “I am Israeli, Basel is Palestinian. And in two days we will go back to a land where we are not equal... This situation of apartheid between us, this inequality has to end.”

The Kenyan Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o was the jury president with director Albert Serra (Spain), actor and director Jasmine Trinca (Italy), actor and director Brady Corbet (US), director Ann Hui (Hong Kong, China), director Christian Petzold (Germany), and writer Oksana Zabuzhko (Ukraine).

Some of the winners

  • Golden Bear: Dahomey by Mati Diop
  • Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize: A Traveler’s Needs by Hong Sang-soo
  • Silver Bear Jury Prize: The Empire by Bruno Dumont
  • Silver Bear for Best Director: Nelson Carlo De Los Santos Arias for Pepe
  • Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance: Sebastian Stan for A Different Man
  • Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance: Emily Watson for Small Things Like These
  • Silver Bear for Best Screenplay: Matthias Glasner for Dying

Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution: Martin Gschlacht for “The Devil’s Bath” by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (cinematography)

Honorary Golden Bear: Martin Scorsese

Berlinale Camera: Edgar Reitz

GWFF Best First Feature Award: “Cu Li Never Cries” by Pham Ngoc Lân

Berlinale Documentary Award: “No Other Land” by Basel Adra, Hamdan Ballal, Yuval Abraham, Rachel Szor


Best Film: “Direct Action” by Guillaume Cailleau and Ben Russel

Best Director: Juliana Rojas for “Cidade; Campo”

Special Jury Award: “Some Rain Must Fall” by Qiu Yang/The Great Yawn of History by Aliyar Rasti

Berlinale Short Films Competition

Golden Bear for Best Short Film: “An Odd Turn” by Francisco Lezama

Silver Bear Jury Prize: “Remains of the Hot Day” by Wenqian Zhang

Special Mention: “That’s All from Me” by Eva Könnemann

Berlin Short Film Candidate for the European Film Awards: “That’s All from Me” by Eva Könnemann