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Hong Sang-soo wins Berlin Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize with 'A Traveler's Needs'

Feb. 25, 2024 - 17:23 By Hwang Dong-hee
Hong Sang-soo poses with the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize for “A Traveler’s Needs” after the award ceremony during the 74th Berlin International Film Festival in Berlin, Saturday. (EPA-Yonhap)

South Korean director Hong Sang-soo clinched the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize with his new film "A Traveler's Needs" at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday.

The jury announced the award at the ceremony held at the Berlinale Palast. The Silver Bear is the festival's second-highest prize after the Golden Bear. It is Hong's second Grand Jury Prize, following his win for "The Novelist's Film" in 2022.

"I’d like to thank the jury. I don’t know what you saw in the film. I am curious," said Hong in English during the award ceremony, drawing laughter from the audience.

He also thanked Carlo Chatrian, the artistic director of the Berlin International Film Festival, who had invited him multiple times, expressing his appreciation for the support.

"A Traveler’s Needs," Hong's 31st feature film, revolves around Iris (played by Isabelle Huppert), a woman from France, who relies on makkeolli -- Korean rice wine -- for comfort, plays a child’s recorder in a park and teaches French to two women, Isong (Kim Seung-yun) and Won-ju (Lee Hye-young).

This is the third collaboration between Hong and the Cannes-winning French actress Huppert, after “In Another Country” (2012) and “Claire's Camera” (2018).

French actress Isabelle Huppert (left) and South Korean director Hong Sang-soo pose at a photocall during the 74th Berlin International Film Festival in Berlin, Feb. 19. (EPA-Yonhap)

“His way of making films is unique,” said Huppert during a press conference ahead of the film’s premiere on Feb. 19. “It’s very difficult to project yourself in a story or a role because there is no role or no story (in Hong’s films). And this is what I really like about it. There is much more than a role and much more than a story.”

The film will be released in the first half of this year in Korea.

With this award, Hong has won five Silver Bear awards at the Berlinale, adding to his previous awards for “On the Beach at Night Alone” (2017), “The Woman Who Ran” (2020), “Introduction” (2021) and “The Novelist’s Film” (2022).

In 2017, the lead actor of "On the Beach at Night Alone" Kim Min-hee also received the Silver Bear for Best Actress.

The top prize at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival was given to “Dahomey,” a documentary by the French filmmaker Mati Diop about 26 looted artworks that were returned to Benin, a French-speaking West African nation, from France in 2021.

The Berlinale featured five Korean films this year, including "The Roundup: Punishment" (Berlinale Special Gala), starring Ma Dong-seok, “Exhuma” (Forum), “It’s Okay!” (Generation Kplus) and the animation “Circle” (Berlinale Shorts).

The festival, which kicked off on Feb. 15, showcased 191 films and wrapped up on Sunday.