'Courage' Wins Top Prize at Vilnius International Film Festival
UPDATED: Adrian Sitaru awarded best director for "Best Intentions," and "Beast" picks up short film nod.
Not to be outdone by major awards ceremonies, the 17th Vilnius International Film Festival closed March 29 in the Lithuanian capital with festivities that included a pumped up emcee, a stage decked out with large neon blocks and dramatic music that swelled when award recipients made their way to the stage.
The top winner of the country’s top festival was also its buzz film: Courage by Polish-Swiss director Greg Zglinski. Set in Poland, the drama about a tragic event that changes the lives of two brothers earned the Best Film Award and €7,000 (roughly $9,340) in the New Europe-New Names competition program of first and second feature films from Eastern and Central Europe.
There was an unprecedented three-way Special Mention for Best Actress, for Anjela Nedyalkova, who played the titular role in Konstantin Boyanov’s Bulgarian film Ave; Serbia’s Isidora Simijonovic (making her debut in Maja Milos’ Clip, also in competition here); and Romanian actress Ada Condeescu (Loverboy).
The international jury – comprising Cuban actress Martha Ibarra, Macedonian actress/producer Labina Mitevska, Latvian director MarisMartinsons, Swedish film critic Jan Lumholdt and Russian director/DoP Pawel Kostomarov – also gave Romanian director Adrian Sitaru a Best Director Special Mention for Best Intentions, the follow-up to his feature debut, festival darling Hooked.
Best Intentions won the CICAE Art Cinema Award as well, guaranteeing the film distribution in the 2000 participating theatres of the International Confederation of Art Cinemas.
The Audience Award went, not surprisingly, to French box office champ Untouchable by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache. The film has sold over 32 million tickets so far, of which 20 million domestically since November and nearly seven million in Germany after 11 weeks on release. Itstotal overall gross is $271m and going strong. The Weinstein Company is set to open Untouchable Stateside in July.
Hungary shined in the shorts section, with Best Short going to Atilla Till’s Beast and a Special Mention to Infinite Minutes by Cecilia Felmeri.
On the local front, the Best Lithuanian Film of 2011 was presented to The Last Day of the Honeymoon by Rekas Eltermanas, andBest Debut Film to Albina Griniute’s documentary A Place We Call Home. Toma Vaseviciute beat out two other actresses for the Best Lithuanian Actress Award. The Festival also held its third Meeting Point - Vilnius industry event, three days of workshops, panels and seminars on topics that included festival-to-festival networking, sponsorship and creative programming. Over 80 festival and industry representatives from throughout Europe participated.
Festival Executive Director Algirdas Ramaska was particularly proud of this year’s Meeting Point, as well as an accompanying Film Festival Forum, and feels their growth are proof that Lithuania’s place on the international film map is slowly but surely taking root. “We have had over 80 festival and industry representatives from throughout Europe here for the events,” he said, “in a year when Lithuania finally passed a Film Law and will, finally, launch a national film center. We’re going in the right direction and, fingers crossed, we’ll even have tax breaks for international companies to come and make films here soon.
The 17th edition of the Vilnius International Film Festival, which opened March 15, saw admissions jump over 25 percent from last year, to nearly 80,000, in a city with a population of 600,000.