The Light Thief, from Kyrgyzstan director Aktan Arym Kubat, was awarded best film and the FIPRESCI prize at the 6th edition of the Eurasia International Film Festival (Sep 21-25), which was held in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  

The film, which stars Kubat as a well-meaning village electrician, premiered in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes this year, and also screened in the Piazza Grande section at the Locarno International Film Festival.

Best director at the Eurasia fest went to Turkish filmmaker Pelin Esmer for the Istanbul-set 10 To 11, while best newcomer went to actress Reseda Khadiullina who appeared in Yury Feting’s Bibinur from Tatarstan in the Russian Federation.

Andrei Merzlikin, the Russian star of Kazakh director Akan Sataev’s Strayed, was awarded best actor, while best actress went to Darya Gorshkaleva for Migrant Worker, directed by Uzbekistan’s Yusup Razykov

The jury for the international competition was headed by actor Billy Zane and also included Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev (The Return), UK-based critic Leslie Felperin, Turkish director Mustafa Altioklar and Kazakh director Darejan Omirbaev

Meanwhile, the NETPAC award was given jointly to two films – 40th Door, directed by Azerbaijan’s Elchin Musaoglu, and Hair from Turkey’s Tayfun Pirselimoglu.

Now in its sixth edition, the Eurasia film festival was founded in 1998 but didn’t take place again until 2005 as the country’s cinema infrastructure was still developing. Between 2005-2007 it was held in Almaty, which is the country’s cultural hub, and in 2008 it was held in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.

The festival didn’t take place last year when the country with its oil and gas dependent economy was hit by the global financial crisis.

Since 2008, the festival has focused on cinema from Central Asia and the Turkic world – the international competition included 12 films from these regions. Other sections at this year’s edition included a focus on the country’s fast-developing local film industry, a programme of French films and gala premieres and special events, including a screening of Teddy Chen’s Bodyguards And Assassins.

The festival opened with a local production – Sabit Kurmanbekov’s Unexpected Love – which stars Gerard Depardieu as a Kazakh villager trying to find a wife for a close friend who has been widowed. In lieu of a closing film, festival guests were treated to a performance by US star Kevin Costner and his rock band Modern West.