Director Nicholas Philibert said he hopes the film shows viewers “what unites us beyond our differences”.
French documentary On the Adamant (Sur l'Adamant) directed by Nicholas Philibert was named Best Film at Berlin's 73rd International Film Festival, the Berlinale on Saturday.
The film is a portrait of the L'Adamant Day Centre in Paris, a floating day-care barge for adults who suffer from mental disorders.
On the Adamant premiered on Friday at the Berlinale and is scheduled for release in French cinemas on 29 March.
Having been created for the Berlin public in 1951, at the beginning of the Cold War, the Berlinale has grown into one of the largest public film festivals in the world, drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year.
Prizes are decided by a seven-member jury, made up of actors, singers and directors from all over the world, and is led this year by American actor Kristen Stewart.
Clutching the Golden Bear trophy, Philibert, who has won numerous awards for his documentaries, was visibly moved.
He said: “That a documentary is awarded and celebrated, that a documentary can be considered to be cinema in its own right touches me deeply”.
Philibert said that in the film he had tried to “reverse the image” that people have of those with mental illnesses and allow viewers to see “what unites us beyond our differences”.
“As we all know, the craziest people are not those we think they are,” he added.
German film Afire (Roter Himmel), a romantic drama about four young adults on holiday during a hot summer by the Baltic Sea, took the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize. After Undine (2020), Roter Himmel is the second part of a planned film trilogy by Christian Petzold.
Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufman's film Superpower also premiered at the festival, which they began filming in Ukraine in early 2021. The film features Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy, and explores the looming threat of Russia, which would go on to invade Ukraine while they were filming.