The 71st Berlin film festival awarded its Golden Bear top prize Friday to "Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn" by Romania's Radu Jude, a satire skewering pandemic-era social hypocrisy with the story of a teacher whose sex tape winds up on the internet.
This year's event was held entirely online for critics and industry buyers but judged by a jury made up of previous winners, who watched the 15 contenders in a specially reserved cinema in the German capital.
Israeli director Nadav Lapid announced the award for Jude, one of Eastern Europe's most acclaimed directors, saying his movie had the "rare and essential quality of a lasting artwork".
For the first time, the Berlinale awarded a "gender neutral" best acting prize, to Germany's Maren Eggert for her performance in the sci-fi comedy "I'm Your Man".
In the film by "Unorthodox" director Maria Schrader, Eggert plays a museum researcher who signs up to test a humanoid robot, played by British actor Dan Stevens from "Downton Abbey" using his fluent German, as a romantic partner.
The runner-up best film gong went to Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi whose "Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy" is made up of three stories of women looking for connection in modern Japan.
- 'German Bill Murray' -
Maria Speth's German documentary "Mr Bachmann and His Class", about an empathetic teacher on the cusp of retirement who takes pupils from a range of immigrant backgrounds under his wing, claimed the third-place jury prize.
Indiewire said it was "one of the year's most hopeful movies" while Britain's Screen Daily said the affable Bachmann seemed like "Bill Murray's German cousin" with a knack for boosting his pupils' self-esteem in the face of poverty and discrimination.
Hungary's Denes Nagy clinched best director for "Natural Light", a harrowing drama about an atrocity committed by Hungarian soldiers in the Soviet Union during World War II.
Prolific South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo, who won the Berlinale's best director prize last year, was awarded best screenplay for "Introduction" about young lovers and their feuding families which was set partly in Berlin.
Mexican director Alonso Ruizpalacios's Netflix feature "A Cop Movie", which mixes documentary and narrative techniques to look at the struggles of police work in the country's capital, won a Silver Bear for artistic contribution.
The festival's organisers hope to hold a gala awards ceremony in June if pandemic conditions permit.
- 'Vintage John Waters' -
"Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn", part of Romania's vaunted new wave of cinema, makes the case that corruption, pettiness and discrimination are more obscene than graphic sex.
Opening with an extremely real-looking hardcore porn video, it was perhaps the most daring of this year's films in competition.
The clip is taken from a home movie the teacher, Emi, shot with her husband that makes its way from PornHub to the mobile phones of her colleagues, students and their parents.
With disputes over social distancing and mask wearing already jacking up tensions and exposing social divisions, Emi fights to save her job and her reputation.
The showdown reaches a farcical climax The Hollywood Reporter called "worthy of vintage John Waters".
"Many of the things that Emi's accused of are things that I was accused of in online comments regarding my previous films," Jude told AFP in a Zoom interview from Bucharest during the festival.
He revamped the premise of the film to incorporate coronavirus, which he said had created more "aggressiveness" in Romanian society.
Rather than push back production, "my take was to do it as soon as possible and adapt to what is around", including casting anti-vaxxers in minor roles and choosing coronavirus masks like "costumes" for his characters.
"I wanted it to feel contemporary and if there's this pandemic going now why not include it in the film," he said.
Last year's laureate, dissident Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, claimed the prize for "There Is No Evil", about capital punishment.
He took part in this year's jury but watched the films from Tehran, under house arrest.