Lebanese artists, authors, and filmmakers Michelle and Noel Keserwany's short film Les Chenilles (Caterpillars in English) took home the Golden Bear for "Best Short Film" at the 73rd Berlinale International Film Festival on Saturday night in Berlin.
In the movie, Asma and Sarah come across one another while waiting tables in France. They hesitantly become friends and discover a connection that dates back to the Silk Road, which connected their home country with the city of Lyon.
The phrase "It is in the tepidness of breasts that caterpillars hatch" from an article by Fawwaz Traboulsi titled "Un amour de soie" (published in L'Orient Express in 1996) that examines the connection between Mount Lebanon women and foreign silk factories in the 19th century served as the inspiration for Michelle and Noel Keserwany's short social, cultural, and poignant film "Les Chenilles." The Biennale de Lyon, which was represented by curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, and Marine Vaillant of Dewberries Productions jointly created the film.
The Keserwanys' modern tale, which also addresses the issue of emigration, was inspired by this visual as well as by the challenging working circumstances faced by women in the Levant and particularly on Mount Lebanon during the 19th century by the French silk industry.
As stated in a statement posted online by the Berlinale jury, “Through carefully arranging image and sound, this complex sensual film transforms the means of woman’s oppression into those of their liberation.” The statement added, “When the third person becomes an 'I,' the women are no longer objects of exploitation, but have turned into subjects. The silkworms will metamorphose into spiders, whose nets do not serve silk production, but their own survival. An immediate friendship connects the two women; in whose bodies the consequences of colonialization are inscribed. The magic of their bond will continue to exist in our perception. The Golden Bear for Best Short Film goes to Michelle and Noel Keserwany’s Les Chenilles.”
Meanwhile, in what jury chair Kristen Stewart called a "boundary-pushing" event, the Berlin film festival on Saturday gave its Golden Bear top prize to a documentary by French filmmaker Nicolas Philibert and its best acting prize to an 8-year-old girl.
The 11-day Berlinale resumed in full force this year after two years of a scaled-back format because to pandemic limitations, with A-listers like Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, and Steven Spielberg walking the red carpet.