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Art Film Fest acknowledges winners, Kazakh film Harmony Lessons triumphs

Wednesday marked the end of the 21st Art Film Fest, held from 21 to 26 June in Trenčianske Teplice and Trenčín. At the final red-carpet ceremony, the creators of the prizewinning films accepted their awards.

Art Film Fest’s grand prize, the Blue Angel for Best Film, went to Harmony Lessons from Kazakh director Emir Baigazin. Telling the story of a boy who risks his own downfall to resist violence, the film is a protest against the growing brutality of public life.

The five-member international jury, helmed by eminent Hungarian producer András Muhi, gave the film top honours for its outstanding aesthetic contribution to contemporary world cinema. “Emir Baigazin has created a film that is a mature, surprising and balanced look at how mechanisms of power work in human society,” applauded the jury. Told with the help of a subtle mosaic of stark images and symbolic sequences from the animal kingdom, Harmony Lessons was the first-ever Kazakh film to be selected for the Berlinale’s main competition, where it won the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution.

The picture also came away with the Mayor of Trenčianske Teplice Award for “its highly convincing depiction of the conflict between the individual and the marginalizing mechanism of violence.”

The Blue Angel for Best Director was shared by Georgian director Nana Ekvtimishvili and German director Simon Gross for their film In Bloom. The jury praised the film as a "brilliant collaboration that intelligently combines outstanding camerawork, superb performances, effective use of sound and a powerful story, resulting in a stirring coming-of-age saga grounded in an enormously potent cinematic universe."

The film is set in 1992, when the Soviet era has ended and Georgia has to get by on its own. In the region of Abkhazia, a civil war is raging. For 14-year-old friends Natia and Eka, childhood is coming to an end as they are plunged into an early adulthood. Chaos, uncertainty and fear of what’s to come are their constant companions.

For her portrayal of Eka, actress Lika Babluani was awarded with the Blue Angel for Best Female Performance. “This major new acting talent has won our admiration, making an enormous impression with her abilities, intuition and intelligence at a very young age," praised Art Film Fest’s Main Jury.

The Blue Angel for Best Male Performance was earned by actor Ercan Kesal “for his emotionally and technically impeccable portrayal of a complex dramatic character" in the film Mold from director Ali Aydin.

The Turkish actor played the part of Basri, a widower who walks miles a day to inspect old railway tracks. His wandering thoughts always come back to his son, who was imprisoned as a student for alleged anti-government activities, and hasn’t been seen since.

The jury awarded a Special Mention to the Austrian film Soldier Jane, hailing it as "a powerful, visionary and imaginative debut from promising director Daniel Hoesl.” The film centres on Fanni, who’s fed up with the consumer lifestyle and leaves the city, and Anna, who’s had enough of pigs and drudgery, abandoning her farm. Attracted by the other side of the fence, both women opt for a new-found freedom.

The picture also received the Mayor of Trenčín Award for “the courage to create a film in an uncompromising, independent style with a distinctive, unmistakable auteur’s signature.”

Art Film Fest’s Main Jury granted a further Special Mention to Mexican-Spanish coproduction La jaula de oro from director Diego Quemada-Diez, citing its “courageous and original handling of plot, direction, performances and production in a feature-length debut.” The picture follows three teenagers from the Guatemalan slums who embark on a long and arduous journey to the USA in pursuit of the life of their dreams. It was internationally premiered in Cannes’s Un Certain Regard section, where its young amateur cast earned the Un Certain Talent award.

The Film Europe Award, through which multimedia production company Film Europe and Art Film Fest acknowledge extraordinary, internationally acclaimed work by young Slovak filmmakers, was given to director Mira Fornay for her picture My Dog Killer. The story of a young skinhead named Marek had already earned the honour of being the first Slovak film to win the Rotterdam IFF’s prestigious Tiger Award.

A total of 11 films vied for Art Film Fest’s various prizes in the International Competition of Feature Films.

In a tooth-and-nail battle for the Blue Angel for Best Short Film, Reality 2.0 from Mexican director Victor Orozco Ramirez came out on top. “It starts with a bus ride and the random things seen from the window. Then we hear the pleasant voice of a friendly man, and we feel like a child listening to a goodnight story. But this is not a film about nice things; it tells of blood, violence and death. Of everyday things. Of reality,” described the three-member international jury of the International Competition of Short Films.

They awarded a Special Mention to the Australian short The River from director Tarquin Netherway. “Water can flow, but it can also pack a punch," said the jury, praising the film about trespassers, water, children in a quiet neighbourhood and the little river that winds its way through town.

A further Special Mention went to the documentary short A Story for the Modlins from Brazilian director Sergio Oksman. “Borrowing a motif from Albrecht Dürer, the director depicts three modern horsemen of the apocalypse in the form of a demonic family. This film has it all: it is terrifying, beautiful, disturbing and astonishing,” enthused the jury.

All in all, the International Competition of Short Films included 38 films fromaround the world.
_______________________________________________________________ Art Film Fest 2013 – the 21st International Trenčianske Teplice/Trenčín Film Festival
The festival is held under the auspices of Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic Robert Fico.
Organizers: ART FILM, n.o., FORZA, a.s.
Co-organizers: The Town of Trenčianske Teplice, the City of Trenčín, Kúpele Trenčianske Teplice
Financial support: The Audiovisual Fund

General Sponsor: KOOPERATIVA poisťovňa, Vienna Insurance Group TIPOS
Main Sponsors: Dr. Max, SYNOT TIP, TEMPEST, SLOVNAFT, Pow-en, Slovenská elektrizačná prenosová sústava
Official Transport Provider: Hyundai
Logistics Sponsor: DHL
Student cinepasses for only €5 provided by: Prvá stavebná sporiteľňa
Sponsors: PPC Power, Slovak Telekom, AVI Studio, Barzzuz, Hydrotour travel agency, AquaCity Poprad
Official Suppliers: Anext, Moët, ad one, Toshiba, Zlatý Bažant beer, Dendra, tuli, Relax, euro Print Hall, Elesko
Main Media Sponsors: Slovak Radio and Television, Rádio FM, Pravda
Media Sponsors: Film Europe Channel, Central Europe Television, Rádio Europa 2, zoznam.sk, rozhovory.sk, Eurotelevízia, Pardon, OK!, Kam do mesta, Slovak Lines, GONG SK, SITA News Agency, BigMedia, moviemania.sk, filmneweurope.com
Sponsors: The European Commission Representation in Slovakia, the Embassy of the United States of America in Bratislava, the Trenčín Self-governing Region, the Slovak Film Institute, the Slovak Tourist Board, CzechTourism, the Central European Foundation, Character – Film Development Association, the Italian Cultural Institute in Bratislava, the Embassy of Italy in Bratislava, the Polish Institute in Bratislava, in film, the Hungarian Institute in Bratislava, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain, the Swedish Embassy in Vienna, the Embassy of Finland in Bratislava, the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Prague, Považský cukor, Europe’s Finest, Hotel Flóra, AutoCont, Contest, Esterle&Esterle, Kinoservis, Cinemax, lampART, Kursalon Trenčianske Teplice, spicybrown, the Bratislava Culture and Information Centre