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A film first conceived in the 1980s and completed after the death of its director, Alexey German, won best film at Russia’s oldest national film awards, the Nikas, held late Tuesday in Moscow.
Hard to be a God, which won six out of its nine nominations, also picked up a posthumous best director award, best cinematography for Vladimir Ilyin and Yuri Klimenko and best actor for Leonid Yarmolnik.
German’s widow Svetlana Karmalita, who co-wrote the screenplay, an adaptation of a Soviet era sci-fi novel by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, and helped complete the film, collected the award on behalf of her late husband. The 170 minutes long black and white movie was released in Russia last February, a year after German’s death in 2013.
The 28th edition of the awards also gave kudos to Ukrainian director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky‘s ground-breaking debut The Tribe – a film without any spoken dialogue about a school for deaf and mute youngsters – awarding it best film from the CIS and Baltics.
Slaboshpitsky, whose country is mired in a conflict with Russian-backed separatists in its eastern provinces, who was not personally present at the ceremony, told organizers in a message that he very much hoped “that next year one of the most talented Ukrainian directors, Oleg Sentsov, will be able to get this award.”
Sentsov, a Ukrainian citizen, is being held in a Moscow prison awaiting trial on terrorism charges he vigorously denies after being seized by Russian security agents in his Crimean home in May last year.
Discovery of the year was another debut, Corrections Class, by Ivan Tverdovsky. The film, which used non-professional actors and made on a shoestring budget, explored the lives of teenagers at a school for children with disabilities. Last year it won Karlovy Vary’s East of the West competition and has picked up a string of other international festival awards.
In other awards. best actress went to Elena Lyadova for her role in Andrei Zvyagintsev‘s controversial drama Leviathan. Yuri Bykov’s The Fool picked up best screenplay. Best animated film went to Leonid Shmelkov‘s short My Own Personal Moose which picked up a special jury prize this year at Berlin’s Generation Kplus sidebar.
Naum Kleiman, head of Moscow’s Film Museum, who has been involved in a long battle to secure new premises for its world-class collection of cinema artifacts after it was forced out of premises owned by Russia’s Union of Filmmakers, picked up a honorary award for his “contribution to the science of cinema.”
The NIKA awards, modeled on the Oscars and founded by actor and director Yuli Gusman in 1987, are Russia’s oldest film awards.
Director Andrei Konchalovsky is awards president. His half-brother, Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov, heads a rival ceremony The Golden Eagles, founded in 2002. Modelled on the Golden Globes, it recognises both film and film television productions, its top film this year was Mikhalkov’s own latest movie, Sunstroke.
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