FESTIVALS: Austria's Michael Wins Zagreb FF

By FNE Staff
    ZAGREB: Michael by Austrian director Markus Schleinzer received the main prize of the 9th Zagreb film festival (www.zagrebfilmfestival.com) and a 4,000 euro cash award. The prize was accepted by the lead actor in the film, Michael Fuith.

    The closing ceremony and award presentation took place in an informal atmosphere: ZFF executive director Hrvoje Laurenta greeted all the guests, filmmakers, jury members and audience and festival director Boris T. Matić expressed his satisfaction with the past week that included numerous formal and informal meetings and screenings of 90 films in five venues. The first award that was given was the one of Palunko Screenwriters' Workshop. Twelve young screenwriters took part in it this year under the mentorship of Dalibor Matanić, Danilo Šerbedžija and Tomislav Zajec. Special mention went to Sanja Đurić and Hrvoje Marin and the winner was Lana Brčić for her script for 'Glass Jar'.

    Announcing the Checkers program award, Boris T. Matić underlined that tougher criteria had been applied this year. Accompanying him on the stage was Tin Žanić, whose film 'Komba' was declared winner in the said program. The award was presented to him by Jukka-Pekka Laaks, a member of the jury, with the following explanation: 'A refreshing film about the difficulties of communication and modern life. The cinematography, editing and sound design work perfectly with the theme of this film. Because of its open structure Komba is a film that remains in mind for a long time after it is over'. Thanking for the award, director Tin Žanić pointed out that there would be no film without his great film crew and he dedicated the film to them. Best Film Award in Checkers Program is sponsored by Bug Magazine and includes a motor scooter.

    Golden Pram for Best Documentary Film and the accompanying cash award of EUR 1,000 went to the film 'At the Edge of Russia' by Michał Marczak. Amra Bakšić Čamo, a member of the jury, gave the following explanation: The best documentary goes to a film which drew us into the intimate, simple and very old world of five men living in an isolated wilderness. We admired the staying power of the filmmakers who survived months in this stark and harsh universe, and yet managed to produce a beautifully crafted and intimately observed film full of humour and emotion.' Director Michał Marczak addressed the audience over video link: 'I had to give up coming to Zagreb in the last moment as I am working on my new film. When a man is making a film, he loses hope in a way, he starts having doubts in what he is doing. This award has come in the best possible moment, just when I needed an incentive for my work. Thank you very much, Zagreb, and I hope to see you as early as next year'. Special mention in the documentary program went to Saša Ban for his film 'Land of Knowledge'. Chris McDonald explained the award on behalf of the jury: 'The documentary jury would like to give special mention to a film which was a well executed telling of a socially engaging story that documented young citizens' passion for direct democracy.' Receiving the recognition, Ban expressed particular gratitude to his film crew, just like Žanić.

    Golden Pram for Best Short Film and a cash award in the amount of EUR 1,000 went to Ilker Çatak and Johannes Duncker for their film 'When Namibia Was a City'. Using video link, the directors addressed the audience which they had had a chance to meet at the premiere of their film in Zagreb. Johannes Duncker thanked the audience, jury, organizers and all Zagrebers for the great time in Zagreb and Ilker Çatak dedicated the award to his family and his father in particular, expressing his gratitude to them. Antonio Piazza, a member of the jury, read the explanation: 'When Namibia Was A City'... is about a retired man who realizes that finding meaning for his life is harder than he expected. A delicate family portrait with a gently amusing tone and characters that are precisely drawn'. Piazza handed the microphone over to Christopher Goodwin, who explained why the jury gave special mention to 'The Exchange', a film by Eran Kolirin: 'The Exchange' has a brave and intriguing concept. With a playful tone the film questions the very texture of reality, the meaning of our lives by showing how the places that are most familiar and comfortable to us, such as our own home, can become spaces for discovery and existential danger'. Having left Zagreb already, Eran Kolirin also spoke to the audience via video link. In his specific, deconstructive and off-center manner, he thanked the festival, audience and jury.

    The winner of the main award was pronounced by Peter Suschitzky. He said: 'We struggled to find a winner in this selection in which a number of films were very strong and affecting. 'Michael' is a difficult and deeply disturbing film about a human being that no one can like, a pedophile, whose apparently banal life is described with chilling irony yet without any artificial dramatic emphasis. A perfectly realized and profoundly terrifying portrait of evil'. The director, Markus Schleinzer, sent a message, read by Boris T. Matić. It said: 'Although collecting money for this film was easy, it was hard to make because, as a debutant director, I tried not to make any compromise or concessions. The invitation to the festival and this award are a proof that taking such an attitude was worthwhile. I am sharing this award with my crew - the actors in particular - but also with my fellow directors from the ZFF competition program. Let us keep making films!' Michael Fuith, the leading actor of 'Michael', received Golden Pram Award and the amount of EUR 4,000. Accepting the award, Fuith expressed his gratitude and said: 'I still cannot understand all this... It is a great honor. Now I finally know we have done a great job'.

    At the end of the gala, the organizers expressed their gratitude to the festival crew, City Of Zagreb, Croatian Audiovisual Center, MEDIA Program, festival partner T-Com and other sponsors and, particularly, to the audience.

    The award presentation ceremony, followed by the screening of David Cronenberg's recent film 'Dangerous Method', marked the formal end of the ninth Zagreb Film Festival.