Serbian filmmaker Oleg Novkovic’s modern-day Greek tragedy White White World (Beli, Beli Svet) has been awarded the Grand Prix for Best Film at the 20th edition of FilmFestival Cottbus (Nov 2-7).

This is the first time in the Cottbus festival’s history that the main competition’s top prize has gone to a filmmaker on a second occasion: Novkovic had received the Grand Prix in 2006 for his previous feature film Tomorrow Morning (Sutra Ujutra).

At the time, the main prize had meant that the film’s production company West End Productions also received the CoCo Special Pitch Award which enabled it to present a new project - White White World - as a Special Pitch at the 2007 edition of the East-West Co-Production Market Connecting Cottbus.

The film was subsequently realized in 2009 as a Serbian-German-Swedish co-production and had its world premiere in Locarno’s International Competition in August where it won the Silver Leopard for Best Actress and the CICAE Prix Art et Essai for Best Film.

In fact, the FilmFestival Cottbus has played a crucial role in Novkovic’s career as a filmmaker: all of his four feature films have been shown here with his debut Why Have You Left Me (Kazi Sasto Me Ostavi) in 1994 and Normal People (Normalni  Ljudi) in 2001.

As part of this year’s award, West End Productions will again have a chance to pitch its new project at next year’s Connecting Cottbus forum, and Novkovic confirmed to ScreenDaily that he aims to work again with the same foreign production partners as on White White World.

Meanwhile, the other big winners of the evening were Hungarian director Agnes Kocsis’ Adrienn Pál and Russian filmmaker Dmitriy Mamuliya’s Another Sky (Drugoye Nebo).

Lead actress Eva Gabor and DoP Adám Fillenz were in Cottbus to accept the International Jury’s Main Prize for Best Director and the Special Prize for an Outstanding Actress (for lead actress Gabor) as well as the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.

The International Jury including festival director Fernanda Silva and German actress Anjorka Strechel gave a Special Mention to Georgian-born Mamuliya’s feature debut which also received the FIPRESCI Prize and the Prize for Best Debut Film.

Other awards included the Special Prize for an Outstanding Actor in recognition of the performance by Estonia’s Taavi Eelmaa in Veiko Öunpuu’s The Temptation Of St. Tony (Püha Tönu Kiusamine) and the prize in the new U18 German-Polish Youth Film Competition to Jacek Borcuch’s All What I Love (Wzsystko Co Kocham).

This year’s Audience Award went to Kyrgyz filmmaker Aktan Arym Kubat’s The Light Thief (Svet-Ake) which had its premiere in the Directors’ Fortnight last May.

Introducing the film to the audience in Cottbus, French co-producer Marc Baschet of A.S.A.P. Films explained that Kubat and other members of the team from Kyrgyrzstan had not been able to attend the festival because they were afraid to leave their country because of the current instable political situation.

Kubat - previously known by the Russian name of Aktan Abdykalikov - won the Grand Prix in Cottbus in 1998 with his film Beshkempir.

Festival director Roland Rust told ScreenDaily that attendance to Cottbus’ anniversary edition would match the record level of 2009 (18,500 admissions) and revealed that the 21st festival - from Nov 1-6, 2011 - would have a regional focus on the cinematographies from Poland and Ukraine - ahead of the UEFA Euro 2012 Championship in both countries.

Meanwhile, the 12th edition of the two-day parallel Connecting Cottbus (CoCo) ended with the co-production market’s participants voting for Georgian filmmaker Vano Burduli’s project Flight Tbilisi-Tbilisi as the winner of the Best Pitch Award.

The public pitchings of CoCo’s 15 projects were staged before such leading industry figures as producers Karl “Baumi” Baumgartner (Pandora Film), Dariusz Jablonski (Apple Film), Alexander Ris (Neue Mediopolis), sales agents Ellis Driessen (Fortissimo Films), Marta Lamperova (Film New Europe) and Sasha Wieser (EastWest Filmdistribution) as well as public funders Kirsten Niehuus (Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg), Manfred Schmidt (MDM) and Francine Raveney (Eurimages).

During the pitchings, Serbian actor-producer Branislav Trifunovic revealed that the three leads for Milos Pusic’s second feature Withering had already been cast with White White World’s Jasna Duric, Boris Isakovic, who also appeared in Novkovic’s film and Vladimir Perisic’s Ordinary People, and Bosnian actor Emir Hadzihafizbegovic (known to international audiences from roles in such films as Grbavica and The Blacks).

Moreover, Hungarian producer Gabor Dettre confirmed that the Dutch production outfit Filmtent would be a partner on Gyula Nemes’ planned grotesque-anarchist drama Zero which will be produced by Playtime Ltd. and Jiri Konecny’s endorfilm from the Czech Republic.

In two CoCo panel discussions on trends in East European cinema in the past two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the so-called “3 D’s” - “Death, Drugs and Depression” - were cited as often being characteristic for the type of film coming from this region - an impression which incidentally could be confirmed by many of the titles in the FilmFestival’s 2010 main competition.

 Finally, on the eve of this year’s CoCo, the German-Polish Co-Development Fund announced the allocation of funding for three new projects being developed together by producers from the two countries.

Support was given to the development of Unsettled, a  family drama about two brothers coming together after many years of separation, as a collaboration between Berlin-based Endorphine Production and Opus Film in Lodz; the historical documentary Kutte und Rüstung about the German Order of Knights as a co-development by Ottonia Media with Warsaw-based Arkana Studios/Odeon; and the satirical documentary 80 Days, to be directed by Marcel Koszalka and Kornel Miglus, between Studio Filmowe Kalejdoskop and Vacant Filmproduktion in Berlin.