DUBAI: Iraqi actress Kurdwin Ayub, a former refugee, won the Best First Feature award at the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival on Wednesday for her drama “Sonne.”
Ayub’s full-length feature, which she wrote and directed, centers around a Kurdish, Vienna-born teen, Yesmin, who makes a dance video with her non-Muslim friends.
The clip of the three girls goes viral overnight. Yesmin is then faced with cultural and religious challenges.
“Sonne” had its world premiere on Feb. 12 at the festival.
Ayub was born in Iraq in 1990. She left her country with her family during the First Gulf War. The filmmaker, who is now an Austrian citizen, grew up on the outskirts of Vienna in a refugee camp.
Her shorts have been shown and awarded at numerous international film festivals. In 2013, she was awarded the Vienna Independent Short Newcomer Prize, while in 2011 and 2012, she received the Viennale Mehrwert Short Film Prize.
In 2012, she presented a series of her short films at the Viennale. Her feature documentary “Paradise! Paradise!,” which she directed and filmed, won multiple awards including Best Camera at the Diagonale — Festival of Austrian Film — and the New Waves Non Fiction Award at the Sevilla Festival de Cine Europeo.
This year’s Berlinale was held in-person for the first time in two years but was a shorter competition than usual, with strict regulations for audiences just as COVID-19 infections were peaking in Germany.
The festival awarded its Golden Bear top prize to Spanish director Carla Simon’s semi-autobiographical drama “Alcarras,” about a family of peach farmers fighting for their future.
There were 18 films from 15 countries vying for the Golden Bear, with the jury led by Indian-born American director M. Night Shyamalan.
The Berlinale is now the third major European film festival in a row to award its top prize to a woman director, following Cannes and Venice last year.
German-Turkish comedian Meltem Kaptan, 41, won the festival’s second ever gender-neutral acting prize for her performance in “Rabiye Kurnaz vs George W. Bush.”