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Ben Attia's 'Hedi' triumphs at Athens Film Festival

Hedi won best film, while Matt Johnson won best director for Operation Avalanche.

The Tunisian-French-Belgian co-production Hedi by Mohamed Ben Attia has won the best film award, the Golden Athena, at the 22nd Athens International Film Festival (September 22-October 2).

The film was co-produced by Tanit Films, Nomadis Images and the Dardenne brothers production outlet Les Films du Fleuve.

Majd Mastoura stars in the lead role as a young man who tries to break loose from his dominant mother and some of Tunisia’s more conservative social norms.

The film debuted at Berlin Film Festival 2016, winning the best first film award and a best actor prize for Mastoura.

The AIFF awards were decided by a five-member international jury presided over by the BFI programmes curator Nicola Gallani. The jury included German film critic Julia Teichmann (Film Dienst), French producer Sylvia Perel and her compatriot film critic Bernard Nave (Jeune Cinema).

Matt Johnson won the best director trophy for Operation Avalanche, a US Canadian co-production from XYZ Films, Resolute Films and Entertainment, Zapruder Films.

The film is a period mockumentary starring Johnson as head of a CIA team.

The best screenplay award went to Babak Anvari for Under The Shadow, the Jordanian-Qatari-Iranian-UK co-production.

The thriller has reviously scored awards at genre festivals including Puchon and Neuchatel. The plot unfolds in the post-revolution, war-torn Tehran of the 1980s.

The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge) - the animation directed by Michael Dudok de Wit - won a Jury Special Mention and the Audience Award.

The French, Belgian venture in co-production with the famous Japanese animation outlet Studio Ghibli premiered in Cannes 2016 where it was awarded the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize.

In the music and films international competition Eat that Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words, directed by Thorsten Schutte, won the Golden Athena for best film.

The film, a portrait of the late musician Frank Zappa, was produced by Estelle Fialon.

The music and films international jury was presided over by Greek composer Lena Platonos and included among others the German director/producer Heiko Lange and his Greek colleague Tasos Marougkas.

Greek winners, artistic director

Other awards, handed out by a five-member all national jury, went to features and short films in the festival’s 52 titles-strong Greek section.

Joyce Nashawati was named best debut director for Blind Sun (Kafsonas) which follows an illegal immigrant looking after a villa in a seaside resort struck.

The film, a Greek-French co-production (Good Lap Production, To Be Continued, Blonde Audiovisual Productions) arrived at the AIFF having already been awarded this year at such festivals as Toronto, Brussels and Fantasport, both for its director and for its cinematography by the late Theo Angelopoulos regular DOP Giorgos Arvanitis. It is sold by French sales outlet Reel Suspects.  

Elsewhere Elli Tringou was named best female debut actress in Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ Suntan, which has also been hailed and awarded internationally (Edinburgh, Odessa).

Yiannis Niarros in Tassos Boulmetis’ local box office hit Mythopathy (Notias) and Alexandros Vardaxoglou in Yorgos Zois’ Venice, Palm Springs and Istanbul feted Interruption were named ex-aequo best male actors.

Konstantina Kotzamani’s Limbo (world premiered in Cannes 2016 Critics’ Week) received the best short award accompanied by a prize of $1,700 (€1,500).

This year’s festival was the first for new artistic director Loukas Katsikas, the film critic who takes over from Orestis Andreadakis who was elected artistic director of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

Katsikas served previously for 18 years as programme advisor and coordinator of the event. Notable additions this year are the Festival Darlings section catering to films highlighted at the top festivals of the year; the Minority Report, showcasing films on the hot topic of minorities organised with the backing of the E.U. National Strategic Fund; and the introduction of an international jury to replace the Youth Jury to decide the awards of the international competition section.

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