Romanian Drama 'Illegitimate' Wins Best Film at Odessa Fest

Maggie's Plan still - H 2016
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Adrian Sitaru's edgy story of an immoral family reflects the continued strength of Romanian filmmaking.

A jury headed by Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton awarded the main prize for best film on Saturday at the close of the Odessa International Film Festival to Illegitimate, Romanian director Adrian Sitaru's edgy drama of an immoral family.

The film, made on a micro-budget of $7,000 by the helmer and his mix of professional and non-professional actors over three years, impressed the judges with its raw portrayal of a family where morality knows no bounds.

Among other awards at the seventh annual festival, held in the Black Sea port city in southwestern Ukraine known for its "Potemkin Steps" — which featured in the famous scene from Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 classic Battleship Potemkin best director honors went to Belgium's Xavier Seron for his black comedy Death by Death and the best acting prize was shared by Rosalie Thomass and Kaori Momoi for their parts in From Fukushima With Love, German director Doris Dorrie's tale of a Western aid worker's relationship with a Japanese woman.

There also were special jury mentions for French helmer Lea Fehner's comedy-drama Ogres and Greek director Argyris Papadimitropoulos' bittersweet drama Suntan.

Best Ukrainian film honors went to Taras Tkachenko's The Nest of the Turtledove about a Ukrainian woman who returns to her home after working illegally in the West and now pregnant by her lover, and the festival's audience-voted Grand Prix award went to British director Chanya Button's funereal story Burn Burn Burn.

The fest also ran a documentary, national and short film competition and hosted industry events that included pitching sessions and a glimpse of the latest Ukrainian features nearing completion.

Sidebars included a festival review section that gave audiences a chance to see such films as this year's controversial Cannes Golden Palm winner I, Daniel Blake and Pablo Trapero's crime family drama The Clan, which won last year's Venice best director award.

The Odessa fest opened with French director Xavier Giannoli's new film Margeurite and closed with American director Rebecca Miller's comedy Maggie's Plan, starring Julianne Moore.

The event — which struggled through a couple of difficult years where funding was disrupted by political events that sparked a war with Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country — seems to be finding its footing again. A new major sponsor, TaskomBank, came on board last year. The board's chairman banker and politician Sergiy Tigipko, a former chairman of the national bank, is married to festival president Victoria Tigipko.

Politics were precluded from the closing gala at Odessa's grand 19th century opera house, where both the Ukrainain minister of culture, theater and cinema actor Yevhen Nyshchuk, and German documentary film producer Simone Baumann, who is also on the festival's advisory board, urged filmmakers worldwide not to forget Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, who remains in a Russian prison after being given a 20-year sentence last year for alleged terrorist offenses in his home region of Crimea that he continues to vigorously deny.