Croatia big winner in Cottbus; Iceland to the fore in Lübeck


Dalibor Matanić’s The High Sun wins hat trick at Cottbus.

Croatia was the big winner at the 25th edition of FilmFestival Cottbus (Nov 3-8) with Dalibor Matanić’s The High Sun taking home three awards, including the Main Prize and FIPRESCI Prize.

The €25,000 Main Prize was shared equally between Matanić and his producer Ankica Jurić Tilić for the Croatian-Slovenian-Serbian co-production which had its world premiere in San Sebastian in September.

The film’s actress Tihana Lazović was in Cottbus to accept the Main Prize on behalf of Matanić and Tilić, and subsequently picked up the €5,000 Special Prize for Best Actress for her portrayal of three women in three consecutive decades.

The High Sun premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar where it won the Jury Prize; international sales are handled by Cercamon World Sales for the film which is now Croatia’s submission for the Foreign-Language Film Oscar.

Meanwhile, another Croatian filmmaker, the veteran Branko Schmidt, received the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury for his latest feature The Ungiven.

Speaking about the International Jury’s decisions, Kosovar director Visar Morina said that, ¨at least in some cases, we ended up having extremely diverging opinions,” but they nevertheless managed to understand each other.

His jury colleagues - all film directors - included Serbia’s Zelimir Zilnik, Bosnia’s Aida Begic and Dutch filmmaker Ineke Smits who has regularly worked in Georgia.

They awarded the Special Prize for Best Director to the Hungarian filmmaker Lili Horváth for her feature debut The Wednesday Child, while Czech actor Karl  Roden picked up the Best Actor Prize for his performance in Olmo Omerzu’s Family Film.

Other awards announced at the weekend’s closing ceremony included the DIALOGUE Prize for Intercultural Communication to Sagintay’s First Wife by Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Salamat, the Prize for the Best Debut Film to Visar Morina for his debut Babai, and Prize for the Best Youth Film in the U18 German-Polish Youth Film Competition to Theresa von Eltz’s 4 Kings.

This year’s Audience Award went to Slovenian filmmakaer Jan Cvitkovic’s first foray into the comedy genre, Siska Deluxe, which had its German premiere in a packed cinema last Friday.

Cvitkovic, who was attending the Cottbus festival for the fourth time with a film, said that Siska Deluxe is currently at number two in the Slovenian box-office chart just one place below Disney’s Hotel Transilvania 2.

Looking back at the 25th anniversary edition with the new programming director Bernd Buder at the helm, festival producer Andreas Stein reported that the FilmFestival Cottbus’ screenings and events had attracted 20,000 people over the six days.

CoCo successes

Three of this year’s prize-winners - The High Sun, Family Film and Siska Deluxe - had previously been pitched at the parallel East-West co-production market connecting cottbus (CoCo).

In addition, the Spectrum sidebar presented another ¨CoCo baby¨, Radu Muntean’s One Floor Below which found its German co-producer Neue Mediopolis Filmproduktion in Cottbus in 2013.

A review of past editions showed that another two CoCo projects were premiered at international film festivals this year: Gyula Nemes’ Zero in Karlovy Vary  and Senem Tüzen’s feature deut Motherland in Venice.

Moreover, a project from the market’s 2008 edition - Bulgarian Iglika Trifinova’s The Prosecutor, The Defender, The Father and His Son, starring Romane Bohringer - will have its world premiere at the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn next week.

The Prosecutor’s Dutch co-producer Petra Goedings of Phantavision was a producing partner on Trifonova’s  previous two features, Letter To America and Investigation.

#FEEDBACK ¨wish list¨

Industry figures from Croatia, Bosnia, Romania and Slovenia were among those taking part in a brainstorming session as the second stage in the #FEEDBACK working group launched in Cluj last June.

Three key proposals emerged in a ¨wish list¨ ranging from the creation of a network of VoD platforms presenting films from South Eastern Europe through the development of educational courses dedicated to the cinema of countries from the region at film schools and higher education institutions to closer collaboration between national film agencies on a reciprocal basis and dedicated funding for minority co-productions.

The next session of the #FEEDBACK working group will be held during When East Meets West in Trieste next January.

Lübeck: Nordic Film winners from Norway and Iceland

Norwegian filmmaker Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken’s Returning Home won this year’s NDR Film Prize at the Nordic Film Days in Lübeck which also came to a close at the weekend.

The prize’s jury described writer-director-producer Dahlsbakken as ¨an ambitious and highly talented young filmmaker who combines brilliant images of nature and terrific acting to address an important contemporary issue.”

Icelandic cinema also had a particularly strong showing at what is the biggest showcase in Europe outside Scandinavia for films from the Nordic and Baltic regions: Dagur Kári received the Interfilm Church Prize and Audience Award for Virgin Mountain, while his lead actor Gunnar Jónsson was in town to accept a Special Mention fo his performance.

In addition, the Baltic Jury Award went to Grimur Hákonarson’s Rams, the festival’s opening film on November 4, which has also been nominated for this year’s European Film Awards.

Other awards includd the Documentary Film Prize to Danish director Camilla Nielsson’s Democrats and the Children’s Jury Prize to Norway’s Grethe Boe-Waal for Operation Arctic. (ends)