Danish thriller A Hijacking (Kapringen) has won the Golden Alexander at the 53rd Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

The film, which first screened at Toronto, marks Tobias Lindholm’s solo directorial debut and follows the hijacking of a Danish ship by Somali pirates. It is sold internationally by TrustNordisk. It also won the Fipreci award.

The Silver Alexander went to Turkish production Kuf (Mold) by debutant Ali Aidin.

The award capped a strong week for Turkish cinema at Thessaloniki, with two productions from the country receiving the main awards at the Crossroads-Co-production Forum and Works in Progress strands.

Mold is sold internationally by Marie-Pierre Macia, Juliette Lepoutre, Pierre Menahem’s Paris based MPM Film.  

Spain’s Antonio Menez Esparza was named Best Director for Here and There (Aqui y Alla), the portrait of a Mexican peasant returning to his family after working in the US. The film is sold internationally by the Alpha Violet French outlet.

Israeli entry Epilogue, which centres on an elderly couple, won the Bronze Alexander for originality and innovation as well as the Best Screenplay award for director/screenwriter Amir Manor.

The film was also the recipient of the Human Values and Audience awards in the international competition section. World sales are handled by Paris based Urban Distribution.

Other winners included:

  • Polish actress Julia Kijowska for her leading part in Milosc (Loving) directed by Slawomir Fabicki and the Greek actor Yannis Papadopoulos for To agori troei to fagito tou pouliou (Boy Eating the Bird’s Food), directed by Ektoras Lygizos. The latter film also received the Fipresci award for films presented in the Greek section.
  • Russian production Zhit (Living) directed by Vasily Sigarev (Best Artistic Achievement )
  • The Iranian Taboor, directed by Vahid Vakilifar, and the Bulgarian Tsvetat na Hameleona (The Color of Chameleon), directed by Emil Christov (Special mentions).

The international jury was chaired by German film scholar and academic Thomas Elsaesser and included Laufrey Gudjonsdottir, consultant and founding member of  the Icelandic Film Center, Danish director Ole Christian Madsen, his Portuguese colleague Joao Pedro Rodrigues and Greek director of photography Thymios Bakatakis.

The audience awards went to Pablo Larrain’s Chilean production NO starring Gael Garcia Bernal for a film in the Open Horizons section, to Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills for a film in the Balkan Survey section and to the Greek Papadopoulos and Sons directed by Marcus Markou, starring Stephen Dillane and Georges Corraface.

Cash prizes did not accompany the awards this year due to Greece’s financial crisis.

A total of 145 films were screened and a score of directors and journalists were invited as a result of the EU’s National Strategic Reference Framework (NRDF) financing scheme and addition finance from the Media programme.

The NRDF and Media backing should enable the festival to keep on going at least till 2013 while waiting to receive the much delayed subsidy from the financially strapped culture ministry.  

All eight venues of the event were full to capacity and more than 90% of the screenings were sold out.

Standing out among the retrospectives was a highly emotional homage to Greek master and former event president Theo Angelopoulos, who died in an accident earlier this year while shooting his last film.

Festival director Dimitris Eipides aimed for “the festival to provide Greek films with an adequate promotion platform”, but the national section was down on last year.

Just 14 films made the cut compared to the 30+ titles selected in 2011. Highlights included Athina Rachel Tsangaris’ The Capsule and Lygizos’ The Boy Eating the Bird’ Food.  

Reasons for the scarcity of national titles include:

  • the lack of subsidy funding from the Greek Film Centre. All recent local films praised and awarded at foreign festivals have been privately financed most on a cooperative basis by the film makers themselves.
  • the September Athens International Film Festival ambitious policy in beefing up its national section draining films from Thessaloniki.
  • new director´s recent efforts either being in post production not ready for Thessaloniki or held back ahead of festivals in Rotterdam, Sundance, Berlin and Cannes.

The festival wrapped with celebrated Corean director Hongh Sang-soo’s latest, In Another Country (Da-reun na-ra-e-suh) starring Isabelle Huppert.