Turkish Film 'Album' Takes Top Prize at Sarajevo Film Festival

Album still 2 - H 2016
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Mehmet Can Mertoglu's tale of adoption and deception, which premiered at Cannes, wins best feature.

Turkish director Mehmet Can Mertoglu's feature debut Album — a provocative story of a childless couple who create a fake photo album to persuade their adopted child they are the true, biological parents — won best feature film Saturday at the closing of the 22nd edition of the Sarajevo Film Festival. The film premiered in Cannes in the Critics' Week section.

The Heart of Sarajevo award for the the black comedy, which screened earlier this week, came with a €16,000 ($18,000) cash prize.

The story of Bahar and Cuneyt, portrayed as a typical middle-class couple form a narrow-minded social group who yearn to complete their ideal of a perfect marriage with a child, impressed judges at the festival focused on southeastern Europe and its wider region.

The jury, headed by Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, also gave a special jury prize, worth $11,000, to Godless, a Bulgaria-France-Denmark co-production directed by Ralitza Petrova about a nurse praying on elderly demented patients, and a special mention to Romanian director Bodgan Mirica's crime thriller Dogs.

Best actress honors went to Irena Ivanova for her role in Godless, and the best actor prize went to Gheorghe Visu for his role in Dogs.

Serbian director Milica Tomovic's 21-minute-long Transition, about a woman leaving home ostensibly to study in America but actually to have a sex-change operation, was named best short film.

Romanian helmer Monica Lazurean-Gorgan's A Mere Breath, which chronicles a family with a wheelchair-bound daughter and their relationship with God, won for best documentary film.

The Human Rights Award, an important prize for a festival founded in the closing days of the three-year-long siege of Sarajevo during the Yugoslav civil war that ended in 1995, went to Scream for Me Sarajevo by Bosnia and Herzegovina director Tarik Hodzic. The film, about British singer and former Iron Maiden bandmember Bruce Dickinson's concert held in besieged Sarajevo in December 1994, also won a special documentary jury prize.

There also were honorary Heart of Sarajevo awards given out during the festival to Robert De Niro — who presented the event's opening film, a restored copy of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver -— Stephen Frears and Wolfgang Amadeus Brulhart, a former cultural counselor at the Swiss Embassy in Sarajevo.