Film about Israeli settlers in West Bank wins best documentary at Berlin Film Festival

Palestinian and Israeli co-directors make appeal to international community after celebrating award at politically charged ceremony

Basel Adra, left, and Yuval Abraham with the Berlinale documentary award for the movie No Other Land. Getty Images
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A film about struggles faced by Palestinian journalist Basel Adra to preserve his West Bank village as Israeli settlers encroach around it has won the top documentary prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

No Other Land is an Israeli-Palestinian production, with Adra and Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham sharing director credits.

"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 at the politically charged ceremony on Saturday.

He urged Germany to “respect UN calls and stop sending weapons to Israel”.

His co-director, Abraham, added: "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."

No Other Land had also earlier won an audience award.

Many others took to the stage wearing the keffiyeh that is a symbol of the Palestinian liberation movement, including American director Ben Russell, who won an award for his film Direct Action.

The documentary, co-directed by Guillaume Cailleau, follows members of ZAD or Zone to Defend, an environmental activist group that successfully stopped the building of a new airport in the west of France.

French-Senegalese director Mati Diop, whose film Dahomey won the top Golden Bear, also called for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying: "I stand with Palestine."

Dahomey looks at how returning 26 treasures to Benin, art looted by western powers in the 19th century, sparked a reckoning with colonialism's legacy.

The documentary, named after the West African kingdom where the artworks were created before they were looted by a French colonel during his conquest of Dahomey in 1892, looks at the response to the return of some of them from Paris to Benin, of which Dahomey is now part.

"It's an opportunity to shine a light on a story that's too little known," the Paris-born Diop said of the prize. "A reality that France is doing everything to cover up, to define as something to be gotten rid of."

Kenyan-Mexican Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, the first black jury president at the 74th annual event, announced the Golden Bear winner at the gala ceremony.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: February 26, 2024, 6:54 AM