Eastern European Festivals Honor Films Challenging Prejudice

Still from "White Shadow"
Still from "White Shadow"
 

Juries at two Eastern European festivals that closed over the weekend honored films that battle against prejudice.

The international jury at the 14th edition of the Wroclaw's T-Mobile New Horizons festival — Poland's biggest annual international film event — Saturday awarded the 20,000 Euros ($26,800) prize to Noaz Deshe's film White Shadow.

The Tanzania/Germany/Italy co-production, which won Deshe a debut prize in Venice last year, focuses on the life of an young albino boy, Alias, who is sent to the city for his own safety after witnessing the brutal murder of his father.

In parts of Africa, albinos are seen as a lucrative commodity, the body parts of which fetch high prices by witch doctors who believe their whitened bodies bring luck and prosperity.

The film also picked up an audience prize in Wroclaw.

In Croatia, an international "jury in exile" made up of artists and activists who have had to leave their native countries because of their political activities, gave the 17th Motovun IFF's Propellor award to Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpyskiy's The Tribe, about the lives of deaf mutes and the challenges they face, which already picked up a grand prize at Critics Weeks in Cannes this year.

The film is told through the sign-language of its characters with no interpretation given for those who do not understand the hand symbols.

The decision to invite a jury of exiles to judge films at Motovun this year was prompted by a wish to highlight the prejudice some artists face, festival president British producer Mike Downey said.

“Motovun was proud to play host this year for the very first time to a Jury in Exile," Downey said.

"Our goal [was] to bring attention to [Ukrainian director] Oleg Sentsov who lingers in a Russian prison."

The jury consisted of Iranian director Jafar Panahi; Ukrainian feminist activist, Inna Shevchenko of FEMEN, who lives in exile in Paris; Belorussian directors, Nikolai Kalezin and Natalia Kalida, both of Belarus Free Theater; and Ala'a Basatneh, a Syrian activist.

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