The voice of the female film-maker was louder than ever at this year's Berlin Film Festival, with seven out of the 16 films in the competition section helmed by women, and female directors from all corners of the globe featured prominently at the festival.

Women directors represented 63 per cent of the films presented across the festival's 15 sections, compared to 36 per cent for men, making it the biggest representation of women directors in the festival's 69-year history. In addition, the film festival's selection committee was overwhelmingly female.

This year's festival, also known as the Berlinale, has been rich with global women telling female-focused stories, including Michela Occhipinti's feature debut Flesh Out, about the practice of gavage, the forced fattening up of young girls before their weddings in Western Africa.

Other female-centred stories included Macedonian director Teona Strugar Mitevska and her feminist satire God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya; 37 Seconds, a tender story from Japan about sex and disability from Hikari; and Austrian film-maker Marie Kreutzer's The Ground Beneath My Feet, which looks at a high-performing career woman struggling with a sister with mental illness.


There was also the black-and-white lesbian love drama Elisa and Marcela from Spanish film-maker Isobel Coixet.

British director Joanna Hogg presented her fourth feature film, The Souvenir, following a girl through film school in the 1980s. Part autobiographical, The Souvenir stars Honor Swinton Byrne as a student film-maker alongside her mother, Tilda Swinton.

Hogg says one of the reasons for making the movie was to show a woman as an artist.

"We all talk about films about directors like the wonderful 8½ ... but they're always these male directors," she said. "So I'm ... very interested in the female ego."

Swinton, who has directed documentaries, says that for her, the role models have always been there: "Female film-makers have always been making films. It just, they don't necessarily get the column inches."

That wasn't the case for Danish director Lone Scherfig, who opened this year's festival with The Kindness of Strangers. She says she didn't have much inspiration from women film-makers or the female characters she watched on screen growing up in Denmark.

"Women were always happy and pretty," she recalled.

She says for her it was a big jump to making films "instead of just sitting, [wishing] you were Audrey Hepburn."

Indian film-maker Zoya Akhtar was in Berlin for her movie Gully Boy, which looks at the urban rap music scene in India. She feels that today's women film-makers are not only writing exciting female characters but "legitimate men".

"It's really important to see how we see men and how we want to see men and what we think is heroic," she said.

Israeli's movie 'big celebration'

Juliette Binoche presents the Golden Bear to Nadav Lapid for Synonyms in Berlin. Photo / AP
Juliette Binoche presents the Golden Bear to Nadav Lapid for Synonyms in Berlin. Photo / AP

Israeli director Nadav Lapid's Synonyms, a movie about a young Israeli man who uproots himself to France and is determined to put his homeland behind him, won the Berlin International Film Festival's top Golden Bear award.

A jury headed by French actress Juliette Binoche chose the movie from a field of 16. Set in Paris, it stars Tom Mercier as Yoav, who refuses to speak Hebrew and is accompanied by an ever-present French dictionary as he tries to put down roots and create a new identity for himself.

Lapid said some in Israel might be "scandalised" by the movie "but for me, the film is also a big celebration".

The festival's best actor and best actress awards went to Wang Jingchun and Yong Mei, respectively, for their roles as a couple who lose their son in director Wang Xiaoshuai's So Long, My Son, a three-hour Chinese family saga.