Russian 'Victim' victorious in Rome

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ROME -- A modern-day Russian film, based on Shakespeare's Hamlet, won top prize at Rome's first international film festival as the nine-day marathon wrapped up on Saturday.

"Playing the Victim" by Kirill Serebrennikov, a critically acclaimed theater director in his native Russia, was named best film among the 16 movies in competition. They were mostly art-house titles by new directors.

Serebrennikov's film is a family drama centered on a young student who uncovers the mystery surrounding his father's death.

The jury also gave a special prize to "This is England," British director Shane Meadows' story of a 12-year-old boy befriending a group of skinheads in the early 1980s.

In different ways, both films explore the confusion and disillusionment of younger generations. They were chosen by a 50-member jury made up of ordinary film-goers and supervised by Italian director Ettore Scola.

"Neither of these two very beautiful films is commercial but I hope both will reach the big audiences," Scola said at the award ceremony.

Serebrennikov said his film -- adapted from a play by the Presnyakov brothers -- was a film "for Russia and for Russians".

"We still believe that cinema can change people's way of thinking and their consciences," he said.

"I think my film is an artistic portrayal of what is passing through the minds of people in Russia today: terror, hope, insecurity."

Meadows drew on his own experience as a troubled teenager student who dropped out of school to tell the story of Shaun, an isolated boy growing up in a grim English coastal town.

He says he found the lead character for the film, 13-year- old Thomas "Tommo" Turgoose, at a project for disadvantaged children in the town of Grimsby.

"He had grown up with all the odds stacked up heavily against him," Meadows recalls in the film's production notes.

As he thanked the jury for the prize on Saturday, Meadows said: "Twelve months ago, the young actor in this film was going through a dramatic period in his life and had no chances. A year later, he is getting a prize ... that could change his life."

Italy's Giorgio Colangeli was named best male actor for his role as a convicted murderer in "L'aria salata," while the best actress award went to France's Ariane Ascaride, for her interpretation in "Armenia" by director Robert Guediguian.
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