FNE at Art Film Fest 2013: Kazakhstan, Georgia Take Top Awards

Georgian winner "In Bloom" Georgian winner "In Bloom"

TRENCIN: Slovakia’s oldest and largest festival, Art Film Fest, set itself on course for future expansion by moving from the rural spa village of Trencianske Teplice with its limited cinema halls to the university city of Trencin for its 21stedition, which concluded on 26 June 2013.

Festival Director Peter Nagel told FNE he was extremely happy with festival attendance, reaching an average of 3,000 – 4,000 per day, more than doubling attendance over the past five years. By way of example, at 10:30 on a weekday morning, two halls in the local multiplex were full, a lobby filled with students was waiting to get into one art house cinema, and a second art house cinema had a respectable older audience for a challenging documentary. 

Art Film Fest has undergone numerous transformations, from its founding as a festival of films about art, through several changes of directors, but there were serious questions whether it could survive a move from the garden paths of the spa village to a city composed of Baroque and Soviet architecture dominated by a Renaissance castle. Students – who account for the majority of attendance at summer film festivals in the region – proved less adverse to the change of venues. Nagel said there were some 1,500 accreditations for young adult attendees. 

A major draw for the festival was the reopening of the renovated showplace Hotel Elizabeth, which become the festival headquarters (hosting two days of industry events and panels), along with offers of support from the hotel management and the city of Trencin. Nagel told FNE that the city plans to reopen two more art house cinemas that are currently closed, another incentive for a festival with plans to expand. The 2013 edition was shortened to just six days, but will return to an eight day schedule in 2014. 

The film selection was an equal attraction. Main jury member Tristan Priimagi of Estonia told FNE that out of the 11 films in competition, six or seven were serious contenders. Prizes were divided among several films, with Harmony Lessons, a Kazakh-German-French film directed by Emir Baigazin taking two awards, including Best Film. In Bloom, a Georgian-German-French coproduction, won Best Actress for Lika Babluani and Best Director for co-directors Nana Ekvtimshvili and Simon Gross. Slovak director Mira Fornay won the Film Europe award for representation of Slovak film abroad for her film My Dog Killer. Austria was also a prize winner, with director Ulrich Seidl receiving the festival’s Golden Camera award for his work, and the Austrian competition film Soldier Jane directed by Daniel Hoesl picking up two awards. Slovak film was on view in the Slovak Season section of outstanding new productions, and the production company In Film founded by Rudolf Biermann was the subject of a 20th anniversary retrospective.