Unusual ‘jury in exile’ led by Jafar Panahi; empty chair in honour of imprisoned Sentsov.

The Tribe by Ukrainian filmmaker Myroslav Slaboshpytshiy picked up the main award, the Motovun Propeller, as the Motovun Film Festival wrapped its 17th edition this weekend in Croatia.

The Tribe, which has no spoken dialogue only sign language without subtitles, is about a boy who discovers illegal goings-on at a boarding school for the deaf. It premiered at Cannes Critics’ Week where it won the Nespresso Grand Prize, the France 4 Visionary Award and the Gan Foundation Support for Distribution Award.

The Propeller award was bestowed by a “jury in exile,” comprised of people who live in exile, are under house arrest or are unable to be in Motovun because they are not free to travel. The jury president was Iranian director Jafar Panahi currently under house arrest in Tehran; FEMEN’s Inna Schevchenko currently in exile from her native Ukraine in Paris and the only member able to travel to Motovun; Natalia Kaliada and Nicolai Khalezin of the Belarus Free Theatre; and Syria’s Ala’a Basatneh (#chicagogirl).

One absent jury member was Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, currently controversially being detained in Lefortovo prison on terrorism charges. His absence was highlighted by an Empty Chair campaign to draw attention to his case and is the first in a series of planned empty chairs at the upcoming summer and autumn festivals, initiated by the European Film Academy.

“To be able to draw attention not only to the plight of Oleg,” said Festival President Mike Downey, “but to the ongoing situation of Jafar Panahi, the continuing work of FEMEN and Chicago Girl and the incredible sacrifices of the Belarus Free Theatre has been a privilege and a mission for us. It wasn’t easy to bring all these disparate voices together, but when we did, they spoke as one in the support of The Tribe as the winner.”

The jury’s special mention went to German director Philip Groning’s The Police Officer’s Wife.

The Fipresci prize went to Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure (Turist). The Fipresci jury, comprised of Luminita Boerescu, Alexandra Puetter, and Dean Kotiga, said: “The film, set within an idyllic but threatening environment, revolves around human relationships with a very sophisticated and unconventional humour. The director bravely insists on a truly personal style, using long takes and slow rhythm to deal with its subject uncompromisingly. This dialectic of subject and form is a rare occurrence today.”

Martin Rath’s short Arena won the short film competition.

The Motovun Maverick Award was given to Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev, and the Motovun 50 Award for long service in the film industry was given to the poet and composer Arsen Dedic.