South Korean Director Hong Sang-soo Takes Home Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at Berlin International Film Festival

Berlin, Germany – South Korean director Hong Sang-soo received the prestigious Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival for his latest film, “A Traveler’s Needs.” The ceremony, held at Berlinale Palast, saw the jury announce Hong’s win, which is considered the festival’s second-highest honor after the Golden Bear. This marks Hong’s second Grand Jury Prize, following his victory with “The Novelist’s Film” in 2022.

During the award ceremony, Hong expressed his gratitude in English to the jury and humorously questioned what they saw in his film, drawing laughter from the audience. He also extended his appreciation to Carlo Chatrian, the artistic director of the Berlin International Film Festival, who had invited him multiple times.

“A Traveler’s Needs,” Hong’s 31st feature film, revolves around Iris, a French woman portrayed by acclaimed actress Isabelle Huppert. The character finds solace in makkeolli, a traditional Korean rice wine, plays a child’s recorder in a park, and teaches French to Isong and Won-ju, played by Kim Seung-yun and Lee Hye-young, respectively. This collaboration between Hong and Huppert marks their third project together, following “In Another Country” (2012) and “Claire’s Camera” (2018).

Huppert praised Hong’s unique approach to filmmaking during a press conference before the film’s premiere. She admired the absence of prescribed roles or stories in his films, highlighting the deeper layers and complexities that captivate her.

The release of “A Traveler’s Needs” in Korea is planned for the first half of this year. With this recent Silver Bear award, Hong has now won five Silver Bear prizes at the Berlinale, building upon his previous accolades for “On the Beach at Night Alone” (2017), “The Woman Who Ran” (2020), “Introduction” (2021), and “The Novelist’s Film” (2022). In 2017, Kim Min-hee, the lead actor in “On the Beach at Night Alone,” received the Silver Bear for Best Actress.

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

This edition of the Berlinale featured a strong Korean presence, with five Korean films showcased. These included “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 commenced on February 15, featured a total of 191 films and concluded on Sunday.