The 17th Festival of Eastern European Cinema closed yesterday in Cottbus, Germany, after a five-day run. The leading event in promoting films from the region, the Cottbus Festival both lends international exposure to the best films that come out of film industries in Eastern Europe, provides financial support to the most promising filmmakers and serves as an arena for dialogue about trends in the region.
This year, the International Festival Jury presented the main prize to Investigation (Razsledvane), a Bulgarian and German co-production of a crime story written and directed by Bulgarian filmmaker Iglika Triffonova, who has already won several notable awards with her 2001 feature, Letter to America (Pismo do Amerika). Starring Krassimir Dokov and Svetla Yancheva, Investigation is a complex psychological drama that revolves around a female investigator and the prime suspect in the murder case assigned to her. As the investigation unfolds, the film offers a gripping insight into the personalities of the interrogator and the suspect. Triffonova is no stranger to crime stories: in 1993, she directed the documentary Murder Stories, focusing on convicted murderers, as a plea against the capital punishment.
Russian drama Travelling with Pets (Puteshestvie s domashnimi zhivotnymi), written by Arkadi Krasilshchikov and directed by Vera Storozheva, which had previously won the Golden St. George at the Moscow Film Festival, was awarded with the Best Director prize, the Special Prize for Outstanding Artistic Contribution for leading actress Kseniya Kutepova, the FIPRESCI prize, awarded by an international jury of film critics, the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the Don Quixote award from the Jury of the International Federation of Film Societies (IFFS). Unanimously praised for its beautiful cinematography, Travelling with Pets tells the story of a young woman on a journey of self-discovery after her husband’s death.
The Audience Award went to Empties (Vratné lahve), directed by Czech filmmaker Jan Sverák, best known for his 1996 Oscar winning feature Kolja. This is the second time that Empties was voted the audience’s favourite – it also won the prize at the Karlovy Vary Festival earlier this year.
Polish director Jan Wagner’s Porn won in the Best Short Film category and the Cottbus Student Jury presented the Best Debut award to Gagarin’s Grandson (Vnuk Gagarina) by Russian director Tamara Vladimirtseva.
The Discovery Award was given to young Serbian producer Jelena Mitrovic for the drama The Trap, a story about a man who must decide whether or not to kill a stranger in order to get money for his son’s surgery. The movie had previously won the Grand Prix at the Sofia Film Festival.
This year’s Cottbus Film Festival featured 80 films from 25 countries and was visited by about 16,000 viewers.