Israeli director Eran Riklis' "Lemon Tree" won the Audience Prize at the annual Berlin Film Festival Saturday after getting a record 20,000 votes.
The "Lemon Tree" was showcased as part of the Berlinale Panorama section, which screens independent films. Viewers were able to vote both through the festival's official website and with ballots given at the beginning of each screening.
"This has been an amazing week," Riklis told Ynet via phone from New York. "About 1,000 people attended the first screening and it was very exciting.
"I got a good feeling from that screening… it had a very diverse audience and so did the four screenings that followed – they were just packed. The last screening we had, in east Berlin, had over 100 people waiting in line. The reviews were also very good, and that has its affect on the professional level; there was just a very good vibe.
"Hiam Abbas is the reigning queen of Berlin, everyone loves her" said Riklis of his leading actress. As for the prize, Riklis seemed content with the win: "Getting an audience prize is a vote of confidence and also carries significant weight as to the movie's chances of exposure.
"Winning the Audience Prize is aligned with my perception of making movies, meaning that movies are made for the audiences and therefore belong to them," he said.
The Berlin Festival's Panorama showcased 52 movies this year, 19 of which were documentaries. Australian director Julian Shaw's "Darling! The Pieter-Dirk Uys Story" won second prize. Coming in third was Germany's Samson Vicent's "Erike Rabau - Puck of Berlin".
Israeli director Amos Kollek's "Restless", also featured in the festival, won the Union of German Cinema award and received a warm welcome by the foreign press covering the event.
Hiam Abbas will be representing the cast of the "Lemon Tree" at the festival's awards gala, scheduled for Sunday night.