Cottbus fest to showcase Eastern European films


LONDON -- The world's longest-running showcase devoted to films from Eastern Europe opens in Cottbus, Germany, in early November with its biggest-ever prize purse.

The 17th edition of the Cottbus Film Festival, to be held Nov. 6-10 in the small town between Berlin and Dresden in what used to be East Germany, has increased its awards total to €64,000 ($90,400), the festival said Thursday.

New prizes include a €4,500 ($6,400) grant to encourage a new generation of filmmakers by funding a study for film students to visit outside their home countries; an increase to €4,000 ($5,700) for the Cottbus Discovery Award value; and a new "film and media prize" worth €1,500 ($2,100) for film students donated by a regional cable network operator.

The festival, founded in 1991 two years before Germany's national reunification, was designed to celebrate Eastern European film at a time when it seemed it could be consigned to history along with the region's communist regimes.

Significant economic growth and a resurgence in the region's capacity to make attention-grabbing movies -- as evidenced by Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's Palme d'Or-winning "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days" this year at Cannes -- has contributed to the steady growth in the popularity of the festival.

Mungiu's earlier films were screened in competition at Cottbus years before he came to the attention of Cannes programrs, Cottbus festival director Roland Rust said.

This year, the festival's traditional regional focus is on films from the post-Yugoslavian countries. Connecting Cottbus, an industry networking and pitching sidebar in its ninth year, runs Nov. 8-9 within the framework of the festival.