Novkovic's 'Morning' best pic at Cottbus fest


COTTBUS, Germany -- Serbian director Oleg Novkovic scored a hat trick at the closing ceremony Saturday of the 16th Cottbus Festival of East European Cinema as his gritty social drama "Tomorrow Morning" (Sutra Ujutru) took the main $19,000 prize for best film, the FIPRESCI critics nod and a new distribution support prize worth $13,000.

The film -- Serbia's official foreign language nomination for the 79th Academy Awards -- tells the story of a Serbian man who returns to Belgrade after the civil wars of the 1990s from self-imposed exile in Canada to marry a local woman.

Novkovic said it was a case of third time lucky -- the film was his third feature and it was the third time he had been to the festival.

"I'm beginning to feel as if I am part of Cottbus," he said to laughter from guests at the city's Stadthalle.

Romanian director Radu Muntean's acclaimed story of a militia man's decision to join the revolutionaries on the night Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown in December 1989, "The Paper Will Be Blue" (HirtiaVa Fi Albastra), took special prize for best director.

The film previously won best foreign language film at September's Antalya Golden Orange festival in Turkey.

Another movie from Romania's new wave of young directors, Corneliu Porumboiu's satire on the revolution, "12:08 East of Bucharest" (A Fost Sau N-A Fost?)  took a special prize for outstanding artistic contribution for its three leading actors Mircea Andreescu, Teodor Corban and Ion Sapdaru.

An audience award -- selected by viewers from the more than 16,000 people who attended the more than 100 films shown during the five-day festival -- went to Kyrgyz director Nurbek Egen for "The Wedding Chest" (Sunduk Predkov).

Matthias Platzeck, prime minister for the local federal Brandenburg region, pledged continued financial support for next year's Cottbus film festival and said he would "fight for future support", adding that the region -- part of the former East Germany -- was considered a gateway to Eastern Europe.