To the delight of the Estonian film community, the country's first-ever entry in the Venice Biennale's official lineup, Autumn Ball by debutant director Veiko Õunpuu, walked away with the main prize in the "Orrizonti (Horizons)" side-programme.
In another nod to the region, Polish director Andrzej Jakimowski's Tricks took the Europa Cinemas Label as Best European Film in the "Giornala degli Auton (Venice Days)" section Autumn Ball, based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Mati Unt, follows the loveless lives of six people in a sprawling Soviet urban cityscape of the 1980s. Dubbed as a pitch-black comedy by the director, the film was first picked up by Venice's Directors' Fortnight but was subsequently transferred to the "Orizzonti" programme. Õunpuu's previous short film Empty, also based on a short story by Unt, was screened in last year's Karlovy Vary Forum of Independents sidebar, and was later broadcast by ARTE (www.arte.tv). Autumn Ball was produced by Katrin Kissa with Estonian independent Kuukulgur Film (www.kuukulgur.ee) and backed by the Estonian Film Foundation (www.efsa.ee), Estonian Cultural Endowment (www.kulka.ee) and Ministry of Culture (www.kul.ee). This year has been an extraordinary one for Estonia's tiny film industry, with three out of six released features making the official programmes of Cannes, Venice and Karlovy Vary, and taking prizes from the latter two.
In the Europa Cinemas Label competition, the jury called Tricks “a touching and intimate look at everyday working-class life in the Polish countryside” and described Jakimowski as “a director with real promise, maintaining the long and proud tradition of great Polish cinema.” The film was produced by the Polish Association of Artists and Craftsmen with co-financing from the Polish Film Institute (www.psif.pl) and the Documentary and Feature Film Stiduo (www.wfdif.com.pl).
The award will mean extended theatrical exposure and additional promotion for Tricks from the Europa Cinemas network, which comprises 690 cinemas in 55 countries. Europa Cinemas was founded in 1992 to promote European films outside their country of origin