Berlinale Breaks Gender Binary

The Berlin International Film Festival announces they will have gender neutral awards.

Courtesy of

Cassie Santella, Staff Reporter

The Berlinale, one of the largest film festivals in the world, has reorganized and renamed their awards for the 2021 festival to be gender neutral. The Berlin International Film Festival, often referred to as the Berlinale, started in Berlin, Germany in 1951 at the beginning of the cold war. Since then, the Berlinale has attracted tens of thousands of visitors. 

 Lasting six days with around 400 films of all genres and lengths shown, the Berlinale brings talent, excitement, and important economic factors into the capital.  

“I have not heard of the Berlin Film Festivals gender neutral awards,” Lauren Elsey (‘22) said. 

As far as gender neutral awards, the company officially made the announcement August 24th and quickly became a trending topic on twitter. With numerous years of giving out gender specific awards this has come as a shock to many supporters. As expected, there was some controversy around this decision, many in favor, seeing it as a step towards gender equality yet many opposed, afraid it’s a step in the wrong direction.  

“I am afraid that will NOT enhance gender equality! When two thirds of leading roles are written for men, as all research shows internationally (also in arthouse films) then women are less likely to get an award. History shows that pseudo gender neutral awards go to men,” Professor Elizabeth Prommer said in a reply to their announcement on Twitter. 

I may be completely wrong, but it’s kind of charming that the emphasis is on Best Direction, the process and the outcome, rather than the person,” writer Nirupama Kotru said on Twitter. 

“We believe that not separating the awards in the acting field according to gender comprises a signal for a more gender-sensitive awareness in the film industry,” the director duo of the Berlinale said in an official statement on their website

In terms of logistics, the festival’s usual two separate gender based awards for Best Actor and Best Actress, etc. will now be turned into a single awards for “Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance” and a “Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance” and will be awarded on gender neutral terms. There will be eight prizes awarded.  

Everyone is hoping for a successful and safe 71st Berlin International Film Festival despite COVID-19 and these recent changes.