A Canadian film has won a prestigious Silver Bear award at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival.

The Quebec French-language feature film Vic + Flo ont vu un ours (Vic + Flo Saw a Bear) by director Denis Côté, won the Alfred Bauer Prize for innovation at a gala ceremony Saturday evening.

The award, in memory of the festival founder, was presented by jury president and acclaimed director, Wong Kar Wai, who said it "opens new perspectives."

"At the very beginning, we set out the spirit of this jury [which] is to celebrate films, to support the film that we like and we’re not here to judge film or criticize film," he said before handing out the award.

"Am I really side by side with Wong Kar Wai?" Côté asked as he accepted the Silver Bear.

"Thank you to Berlinale, to the jury. Suddenly the title of my film is becoming this big concept. I will share and cherish this with my wonderful team in Montreal. Thank you."

'He just said that he had an interesting vision that the title of his film really became true - Vic and Flo saw a bear.' —Anke Engelke, awards ceremony emcee

As Côté left the stage, emcee Anke Engelke was forced to explain his joke in German.

"If you don’t know the film, he just said that he had an interesting vision that the title of his film really became true — Vic and Flo saw a bear," she said.

The film is about a woman who leaves prison and is reunited with another woman she knew behind bars. It ends in a surprising and gruesome way.


Director Denis Côté hopes his film, Vic+Flo Saw a Bear, will enjoy some commercial success after winning a Silver Bear award at Berlinale 2013. (Thomas Peter/AP )

At a news conference later, Côté was asked about the violence in the film.

"I just hope people don’t see the violence at the end as first-degree or too brutal. I heard people say I’m traumatized by the violence. I really wanted some elegance to the violence, something poetic," he said.

"The two characters at the end, they die. I’m sorry if you didn’t see the film, but I wanted something more romantic at the end so I really hope it’s a romantic violence. So my evil witch, I told her to have this little thing in the eye, a cute evilness."

Côté said he enjoys being innovative but does not want to be labelled as a "die-hard experimental" filmmaker.

And although he hopes this award will mean some commercial success for his film, he told reporters, "No, I won’t go to Hollywood, I promise."

CBC in Berlin

Karen Pauls is in Berlin to enhance CBC's European coverage at a time when the continent is struggling through one of the most unpredictable periods in recent history. Germany's prosperity is being closely watched as the ongoing fiscal crisis puts the European Union under great strain.

Pauls has covered national affairs in Canada for CBC Radio, and was previously posted in London, U.K., and Washington, D.C.

Follow her on Twitter @karenpaulscbc.

Nineteen films were in the competition section of the film festival, which included a strong Eastern European representation.

Other Canadian films that were recognized:

  • Inch'Allah (Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette) placed 3rd for the Panorama Audience Award
  • Inch'Allah (Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette), Ecumenical Jury Special Mention
  • Inch'Allah (Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette), Fipresci Award (Panorama category)
  • Barefoot (Danis Goulet), Special Mention, Generation 14plus, Best Short FilmBig Hollywood films such as Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land and Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects were shut out of the awards.

The Golden Bear for Best Film was awarded to Calin Peter Netzer for Child’s Pose, a Romanian film about a mother who will do anything to save her son from a prison sentence after he kills a child in a car accident.

This is the second year in a row Canada has been successful at Berlinale.

Last year, Quebec director Kim Nguyen’s film, Rebelle (War Witch), premiered in Berlin.

Rachel Mwanza was awarded the Silver Bear for best actress for her role in the movie. The film was also nominated for an Academy Award in the best foreign language category.

"It is such an honour that this festival has embraced and elevated Canadian films on the world stage," Carolle Brabant, executive director of Telefilm Canada, said in an email statement. "These prizes not only shine a light on these three exceptional productions, but also on the Canadian industry as a whole."