"On the Adamant," a French documentary about a floating daycare centre in Paris for adults with mental illness, won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
The film's director, Nicolas Philibert, was incredibly moved by the jury's choice to award the Berlinale's top prize to a documentary rather than a work of fiction, he said on Saturday.
"The fact that this documentary can be considered cinema in its own right deeply affects me," he remarked. "For the past four decades, I have fought for it to be regarded as such."
The film was shot over three years on board The Adamant, a barge moored on the right bank of the Seine. Patients and caregivers interact in ways that break with what Philibert considers the dehumanization of psychiatry.
The 72-year-old director stated that he attempted to "reverse the image" of those with mental illness in the film, allowing the audience to realize "what unites us beyond our differences."
"As we all know, the craziest individuals are not who we believe them to be," he continued.
Philippe Garrel, a fellow French filmmaker, won the award for outstanding director for "The Plough," a film about three brothers attempting to maintain the family puppetry business after the death of their father.
Garrel dedicated the award to his children and the late French-Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, "a great master for many of us," who passed away in September last year.
In "20,000 Species of Bees," Spanish actress Sofia Ortero portrayed an 8-year-old girl yearning for identity and acceptance and was granted the award for outstanding leading performance.
"It is uncommon to see someone convey so many emotions while remaining so simple and shattering," observed Kristen Stewart, jury president. "Especially in performances provided by children."
Otero, who fought back the tears as she accepted the award, subsequently told journalists she was "extremely appreciative and ecstatic."
The prize for outstanding supporting performance went to Austrian actress Thea Ehre for her portrayal in "Till the End of the Night." At the same time, "Music" by German director Angela Schanelec won for best screenplay.
For her work on "Disco Boy," French cinematographer Helene Louvart was awarded the Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution.
The 73rd Berlinale began with a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who urged artists and filmmakers to openly announce their support for his country's fight against the Russian invasion.
Zelenskyy, a former comedian and performer, was featured extensively in the Berlin premiere of "Superpower," Sean Penn's film on the war in Ukraine.
Along with new feature films and documentaries, the festival, which ranks alongside Cannes and Venice as one of Europe's premier cinema displays, highlighted antigovernment rallies in Iran.
This year, 19 films from around the world competed for the Golden Bear.