'Koza' and 'The Tribe' Take Top Honors at Vilnius Festival

Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

Ivan Ostrochovsky's 'Koza' was named best film and Miroslav Slaboshpitsky was tapped as best director for 'The Tribe.'

A minimalist drama from Slovakia and a Ukrainian crime drama featuring a gang of deaf students were the big winners at this year's 20th Vilnius International Film Festival, which wrapped April 2 in the Lithuanian capital.

Slovak director Ivan Ostrochovsky (Velvet Terrorists) took best film honors for Koza, while Ukrainian filmmaker Miroslav Slaboshpitsky received the best director nod for The Tribe.

Koza is the story of a retired boxer who returns to the ring when his wife becomes pregnant and seeks an abortion because they are too poor to bring up a child.

Slaboshpitsky's Tribe is a groundbreaking debut without any spoken dialogue. On hand to receive the honor on the director's behalf was one of the film's stars, deaf actress Yana Nikova, who signaled her pleasure via an interpreter using sign language, adding to laughter from the audience that the director knew only two gestures in sign language: 'thank you' and 'go to work.' Drafthouse Films has picked up the pic for release in North America.

Among other prizes for the main competition, New Europe — New Names, which focuses on first- and second-time directors, Koza also picked up European art-house cinema network Cicae's Art Cinema Award.

Vilnius' best actress award went to Margata Gosheva for her role in The Lesson  from directors Kristina Gozeva and Petar Valchanov, while Marton Kristof was named best actor his part in Virag Zomboracz's Afterlife.

In regional sidebar competition, Baltic Gaze, best film honors went to Victoria by Sebastian Schipper, a crime drama shot in a single, unedited take, and best director honors went to Joshua Oppenheimer for The Look of Silence, his follow-up documentary to Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing. Bianca Kronlof was tapped as best actress for her role in Underdog from director Ronnie Sandahl, and Janusz Gajos was named best actor for his part in Malgorzata Szumowska's Body. There also was a special mention for New York-based, Latvian-born director Signe Baumane's Rocks in My Pockets.

The audience at the closing ceremony, aired for the first time live on Lithuanian television from the capital's Philharmonic Hall, paused for a minute's silence to mark the recent death of 106-year-old Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira, whose last film, the 19-minute The Old Man of Belem — a philosophical study featuring Don Quixote in an eternal garden — had screened in the event's short film section.

Guests at this year's festival anniversary edition included Oscar-winning filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius, French helmer Leo Carax, Danish film and TV director Bille August and Oppenheimer.