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    Roundup of April Festivals – from Nyon to Berlin

    By Martin Blaney | May 26, 2011

    Visions du Réel, Nyon (CH)

    With the new artistic director Luciano Barisone at the helm this year, Nyon’s Visions du Réel documentary film festival (April 7-13) had a greater clarity with three international competitions for feature documentaries, medium-length and short films. German films were among the prize-winners including Sebastian Mez’s Ein Brief aus Deutschland which presents three women from Eastern Europe reading letters addressed to their relatives and gradually confessing their descent into the hell of prostitution. This unrelenting film was awarded the Prix George Foundation for the best medium-length film. Meanwhile, the jury judging the section dedicated to Swiss documentaries awarded the Prix SRF-SSR to David Bernet und Bettina Borgfeld’s German-Swiss co-production Raising Resistance about the consequences of soy farming in Paraguay. Special Mentions were given by the Young Audience Jury to Levin Peter’s Sonor – a creative encounter between a film composer and a mute ballet dancer – and by the Interreligous Jury to Andreas Rump’s portrait of two men of faith, Sufi Sheik Ibrahim heading a mosque in Damascus and his “brother” Jihad who has retreated to a monastery in the Syrian desert, in Scheich Ibrahim, Bruder Jihad.

    Crossing Europe, Linz (A)

    Pia Marais’ At Ellen’s Age (Im Alter von Ellen) shared the Crossing Europe Award at this year’s Crossing Europe festival (April 12-17) in Linz with Spanish filmmaker Lluís Galter’s Caracremada. This was the first time in the history of the Crossing Europe festival that the main prize had been awarded ex aequo to two films.

    Commenting on its choice of Marais’ film for the top award, the International Jury described At Ellen’s Age (reviewed in KINO 98) – as “the study of a character in crisis – and who is constantly adrift – that does not stick to the conventions of narrative filmmaking, and is magnificently served by a mesmerizing lead performance by Jeanne Balibar.”

    Two new prizes were introduced for the 8th edition of Crossing Europe: the New Vision Award went to Serbian filmmaker Oleg Novkovic’s White White World, while the festival audience voted for Agnes Kocsis’ Adrienn Pal to receive the Audience Award. Meanwhile, the Crossing Europe AwardEuropean Documentary – which included acquisition of TV rights by Austrian public broadcaster ORF – went to Into Eternity by Michael Madsen.

    A total of 160 films from 35 countries were shown including a Dutch Tribute to Nanouk Leopold and her producer Stienette Bosklopper as well as a retrospective of Red Westerns from the  former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and showcases dedicated to the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School and Ljubljana’s Animateka Animation Film Festival (Ljubljana).

    International Women’s Film Festival, Dortmund / Cologne (D)

    In order to mark the 20th anniversary of the cooperation between Sparkasse Dortmund and the women’s film festival (April 12-17), the Dortmund Documentary Film Award was created this year to honour the oeuvre of a European documentary filmmaker who “has made an outstanding contribution to the formal language of the genre and to analysing the social topics of the time.” The award will be conferred every two years and was presented this April to German filmmaker Helga Reidemeister. “When viewing the life stories and destinies that fascinate her, Ms Reidemeister never loses focus of the social structures and political implications. In her view, the private is always political,” the festival said about the film director who has been making documentaries over the past 40 years such as The Bought Dream and War And Love In Kabul. Meanwhile, the International Feature Film Award went to Greek filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari for her film Attenberg, “a story of friendship, life’s joys and loss narrated with a distanced minimalism and splendid visuals.”

    Achtung Berlin! New Berlin Film Award (D)

    Teneriffa Exit screened in the Feature Film competition, courtesy Julia von Vietinghoff/Achtung Berlin!

    Teneriffa Exit screened in the Feature Film competition, courtesy Julia von Vietinghoff/Achtung Berlin!

    There was no sign of the seven-year itch when festival directors Hajo Schäfer and Sebastian Brose unveiled this year’s edition of Achtung Berlin! (April 13-20) which once more gave ample proof of the richness of diversity of filmmaking “Made in Berlin-Brandenburg” with screenings of such films as Bernd Heiber’s Teneriffa Exit, Nick Baker-Monteys’Der Mann der über Autos sprang (The Man Who Jumped Cars), Ayse Polat’s Luks Glück (Luk’s Luck) and Marc Bauder’s Das System – Alles verstehen heißt alles verzeihen (The System). Verena S. Freytag’s Abgebrannt – about a young mother forced by her boyfriend to get involved in drug smuggling – won the new berlin film award in the Best Feature Film category, while the honours for Best Documentary went to Katja Fedulova for her film Glücksritterinnen (Ladies of Fortune) about the expectations invested in her generation by their Russian mothers. Andreas Kannengieser’s Vergiss dein Ende (Way Home) was awarded the Ecumenical Jury’s Prize donated by Bruderhilfe – Pax – Familienfürsorge. His graduation film from HFF „Konrad Wolf“ centres on a woman who begins a special relationship with her neighbour after spending four years caring for her husband suffering from dementia.

    This edition of Achtung Berlin! also saw the introduction of the first prize by the German Film Critics Association (VDFK) which was presented this year to Tom Lass for his feature film debut Papa Gold.

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