Iceland’s Oscar submission takes top prize in Lübeck; Edward Snowden gives video introduction to Citizenfour at DOK Leipzig; arson attack hits LGBT screening in Kyiv.

Life in a Fishbowl

Baldvin Baldvin Zophoníasson’s Life In A Fishbowl was the big winner at this year’s Nordic Film Days in Lübeck, taking home the NDR Film Prize, worth $15,655 (€12,500)

Lead actor Thorsteinn Bachmann accepted the award in person from the five-person jury, which said it was “a touching and hopeful film about seemingly hopeless situations”.

The co-production between Iceland, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic is Iceland’s submission for the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar and is being handled internationally by Films Boutique.

Special mentions were also given to Hisham Zaman’s Letter To The King (Norway) and J-P Valkeapää’s They Have Escaped (Finland) by the jury comprising actors Victoria Trauttmansdorff and Niklas Osterloh, producer Christoph Thoke, NDR commissioning editor Diana Schulte-Kellinghaus and Finnish film-maker Kirsi Marie Liimatainen.

Festival-goers voted for Swedish director Maria Blom’s warm-hearted and turbulent film Hellohello to receive Lübecker Nachrichten’s Audience Award.

The Interfilm Church Prize went to Bent Hamer’s 1001 Grams, which opened the festival on October 29.

Film-makers from the three Baltic states awarded the Baltic Film Prize for a Nordic Feature Film to Swedish director Ronnie Sandahl’s Underdog.

The Lübeck Trade Unions Documentary Film Prize was presented to Once I Dreamt Of Life by Jukka Kärkkäinen and Sini Liimatainen.

Industry activities

The parallel industry programme, the Lübeck Meetings, included a gathering of German and Nordic producers and directors discussing the opportunities for remaking successful films for young audiences, a networking event organised by the Hamburg-based Creative Europe, and a roundtable of 25 years of Nordic-Baltic film co-operation to accompany the presentation of the book Stork Flying Over Pinewood, edited by Norwegian Film Institute executive editor Jan Erik Holst. 

Industry figures attending the 2014 Nordic Film Days included distributors Torsten Frehse (Neue Visionen) and Egon Nieser (Arsenal Film), DFFF’s Cornelia Hammelmann, FilmFörderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein CEO Eva Hubert, producers Klaus Heydemann, Dagmar Jacobsen, Kristine Knudsen, Annika Hellström, and Hilde Skofteland as well as film institute executives Petri Kemppinen (Nordic Film & TV Fund), Stine Oppegaard and Sindre Guldvog (Norwegian Film Institute) and Pia Lundberg (Swedish Film Institute), the Berlinale’s Michael Hinz and Stephen Locke, and Vilnius International Film Festival’s programmer Edvinas Puksta.

The festival was also attended by veteran German actor Mario Adorf and 1999’s Nobel Prize for Literature winner Günter Grass whose actress daughter Helene starred in Maike Mia Höhne’s feature-length directorial debut 3/4 in the Filmforum showcase of North German film production.

Speaking to ScreenDaily in Lübeck, Hamburg-based producer Joachim Bornemann revealed that his company Brown Sugar Films will handle the theatrical distribution for Hauke Wendler and Carsten Rau’s documentary A Very German Welcome (Willkommen auf deutsch) about the currently issue of refugees in Germany and the surrounding public debate.

The film, which screened in the Filmforum’s documemtary line-up in Lübeck, had its world premiere in the International Documentary Competition at DOK Leipzig on October 28.

Brown Sugar Films also served as the service producer for Dirk Manthey Film on 3/4 by Höhne who has worked as the curator for the Berlinale Shorts sidebar since 2007.

DOK Leipzig winners

In Germany, DOK Leipzig - the last edition under the direction of Claas Danielsen - also came to a close at the weekend with the awarding of its Golden and Silver Doves and prize-money amounting to $83,284 (€66,500).

French directors Claudine Bories and Patrice Chagnard received the Golden Dove in the International Competition Documentary Film for Rules of the Game about getting long-term unemployed in France back into the job market.

The top honour for the best Animated Film went to Swedish entry Still Born by Åsa Sandzén.

The Silver Dove in the International Competition Animated Film was awarded to the UK’s Daisy Jacobs for The Bigger Picture.

Other prizes handed out at the awards ceremony in Leipzig on Saturday evening included the Golden Dove in the German Competition Documentary Film to Domino Effect by Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski, the Golden Dove for the Best Animated Documentary to Roberto Collío for the Chilean production White Death, the Ecumenical Jury Prize to Romanian director Alexander Nanau’s Toto and His Sisters, and the FIPRESCI Prize to Spartacus & Cassandra by France’s Ioanis Nuguet.

Snowden’s video message at Leipzig’s opening

Whistleblower Edward Snowden made his first personal introduction for Laura Poitras’ documentary Citizenfour which opened this year’s DOK Leipzig on October 27.

In a video message relayed to the opening audience, Snowden said that he had agreed to do this because of the German city’s history, which had been an inspiration for him.

¨Leipzig reminded us that the Wall and the GDR didn’t go down because of bombs or guns or violent resistance. It was brought down by ordinary people on the streets in the square on Mondays,¨ Snowden said.

¨Ordinary people against extraordinary powers reminded us that the legitimacy of governments is derived from this consent of the people that they are governing.¨  

The US-German co-production, which will be released by Piffl Medien on November 6, was awarded the ¨Leipziger Ring¨, the €5,000 film prize of the Peaceful Revolution Foundation.

The prize, which honours artistic documentary films showing exemplary civic engagement for democracy and human rights or made with great personal commitment and courage in the face of resistance and restrictions of the freedom of opinion and the press, was presented this year for the fifth time.

US-born film-maker Poitras accepted the prize last Wednesday evening at a ceremony in Leipzig’s St Nicholas’ Church, one of the places closely linked to the events of  autumn 1989,

Arson attack hits Kyiv’s Molodist Film Festival

The historic Zhovten Cinema was the victim of an arson attack during this year’s Molodist Film Festival (Oct 25 -Nov 2) in the Ukrainian capital.

A Molotov cocktail was allegedly thrown in the auditorium of Zhovten’s Gegemon screen during a presentation of French filmmaker Mario Fanfani’s Summer Nights, which was showing as part of Molodist’s LGBT Sunny Bunny competition sidebar on Wednesday evening (Oct 29).

In a statement made after the attack, Molodist’s general director Andriy Khalpakhchi said the incident was a planned provocation rather than a civil protest.

¨I have two versions of who might perpetrate the arson: 1) raiders who want to build a trade centre on the pace of the oldest cinema in Kyiv; 2) political parties that stand against the European integration of Ukraine,” said Khalpakhchi.

“Law enforcers have to find out those who are behind the provocation as soon as possible. I call on the President of Ukraine: such incidents should be comprehensively investigated.¨

Kyiv’s recently elected Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko promised at the investigation site on Wednesday evening shortly after the attack, and at a subsequent rally of support for the cinema on Friday (Oct 31), that the city authorities will help finance the reconstruction work for the cinema which was originally built in 1930 in the Constructivist style.

In addition, a local Kyiv newspaper said that the cinema’s director for the past 14 years, Lyudmyla Gordeladze, has been appointed to head a charity to raise money for the restoration of the main cinema and the building’s roof.  

At the same time, Swiss press reports quoted producer Iva Madeo of Stefan Haupt’s The Circle  initially expressing concern that his film’s screening at the Zhovten Cinema earlier in the week might have triggered the arson attack.

Madeo had attended Molodist for the Ukrainian premiere of The Circle in the Sunny Bunny sidebar with the film’s two protagonists Ernst Ostertag und Röbi Rapp and lead actor Matthias Hungerbühler. They discussed the film and its issues with an enthusiastic audience until almost 2am.

¨They [the audience] were moved by the film and recognised their own everyday life in it,¨ Madeo recalled.

¨They told us about their struggle, about police raids and arrests. They asked Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp for tips on how they could better organise themselves.¨

Other films shown in the Sunny Bunny sidebar have included Pierrot Lunaire, The Way He Looks and Pride.

Projects from Georgia, France, Ukraine and Slovakia at Boat Meetings

Outside of the festival’s film programme, projects by feature debut filmmakers from Georgia, France, Ukraine and Slovakia were among the productions lined up at this year’s edition of Molodist’s Boat Meetings international co-production platform.

The projects selected for 2014 included:

  • Mariam Khatchvani’s love story Dede (Georgia)

  • Nicolas Engel’s The Giant Of Odessa (France), a drama set in Kyiv

  • Jirí Sádek’s horror film Lady Midday (Czech Republic) 

  • local film-maker Natalia Pyatyhina’s melodrama That Life, That People (Ukraine)

  • Peter Bebjac’s mix of detective story, comedy and drama in Schengen Story (Slovakia).

Ukrainian films The Tribe and Brothers. The Last Confession were also pitched as projects at previous editions of the Boat Meetings.