The Rider by Chloe Zhao has won the best film award (Golden Athena) at the 23rd Athens International Film Festival (September 20-October 1).
The film, produced by US outfits Caviar and Highwayman Films and distributed in the US by Sonny Classics, follows a young cowboy who, after suffering a near fatal head injury, undertakes a search for new identity and what it means to be a man in the heartland of America.
The Rider premiered at this year Cannes Directors’ Fortnight section where it won the C.I.C.A.E. award followed by the Grand Special Prize at Deauville. Ama Films is the Greek distributor, Altitude has the film for the UK and Protagonist Pictures is handling dales.
Zhao returned to the Athens event this year, having presented her widely acclaimed first outing Songs My Brothers Taught Me at the 2015 edition.
The awards in the 10 titles-strong international competition were decided by a five-member international jury headed by Kerem Ayan, director of the Istanbul Film Festival.
Elsewhere, Samuel Maoz won best director for Foxtrot, an Israeli, German, French co-production.
Among its large score of producers are such names as Cedomir Kolar, Olivier Pere and Marc Baschet. The film premiered in Venice this year winning three awards, among them the Grand Jury Prize (Silver Lion). It also courted harsh criticism from the Israeli controversial culture Minister Miri Regev for offering a negative image of the country’s military.
Foxtrot deals with a family which has to face the aftermath of their son’s death while serving in the army. The film played in Athens not long after sweeping the Israeli Film Academy awards, winning no less than 10 prizes and subsequently becoming Israel’s submission for the Academy Awards. Seven Films bought the film for Greece.
The Italian production Sicilian Ghost Story, by Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza won best screenplay while the Canadian title Mobile Homes by Vladimir de Fontenay was the recipient of the audience award.
The music and films international competition jury was headed by the BFI’s head of production Tim Stevens. It awarded the Best film (Golden Athena) to Chavela, a portrait of the late famous Mexican singer.
The American, Mexican, and Spanish co-production was co-directed by Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi. It premiered this year in Berlin.
The special jury prize wen to UK production Where Υou’re Μeant to Βe, a musical road movie set in Scotland from director Paul Fegan.
The Greek competition, reserved for first films, saw Park by Sofia Exarchou triumph. The portrait of a group of adolescents living in the decaying sports venues of the Athens 2004 Olympic Village, already awarded in San Sebastian and Reykjavik, was the recipient of the best film award.
The festival also hosted homages and retrospective for figures including Claire Denis and John Huston.
Guests at this year’s event included Vanessa Redgrave, who presented her Cannes premiered documentary Sea Sorrow, and Lynne Ramsay, who took the trip to Athens to present her Cannes awarded You Were Never Really Here.