Co-directors Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross’ second feature In Bloom has continued its successful run of winning prizes by picking the Grand Prix at the 4th edition of the Vologda Independent Cinema From European Screens Festival (VOICES).

The Georgian-German-French co-production, which premiered at the Berlinale in February and won the main prize at Wiesbaden’s goEast Festival in April, beat competition from such titles as Salvo, A Caretaker’s Tale and Berberian Sound Studio, to convince the International Jury headed by Hungarian film-maker Bela Tarr.

The top prize was even sweeter for Ekvtimishvili as it came on the same day as her birthday.

It was also the birthday of Polish actress Katarzyna Kwiatkowska who received the award for Best Actress for her tour de force performance in Maria Sadowska’s Women’s Day.

Sadowska told ScreenDaily that it was fitting that her lead actress  should now receive what was her first prize for this film, since all of the other distinctions for the film, including Filmfest Cottbus’ Grand Prix last November, had been for her as a director. 

The fact that two of the prizes should have gone to two people celebrating their birthdays on the day of the awards ceremony was pure coincidence, as jury member Stefan Laudyn, director of the Warsaw Film Festival, observed. ¨When we were making our jury deliberations, we weren’t aware that two of the winners would be having their birthdays today.¨

The Best Actor award went to Denmark’s Lar Mikkelsen for his role in Katrine Wiedemann’s A Caretaker’s Tale, while Russian director Yuri Bykov’s hard-hitting drama The Major received the award for Best Cinematography for DoP Kirill Klepalov and also attracted the most votes from the VOICES audience to take the Audience Award.

The Rock Film production, which won three awards including the Grand Prix at last month’s Shanghai International Film Festival, had premiered in the Critics’ Week sidebar in Cannes this year. 

After the presentation of the Grand Prix, the festival organisers and the Vologda Oblast Governor Oleg Kuvshinnikov caught jury president Tarr off guard by announcing him as the recipient of the prize entitled ¨Limitless Talent for special contribution to world cinema.¨

Somewhat taken aback, Tarr graciously accepted the prize, saying: ¨They are crazy. They don’t know what they are doing! Thank you.¨

Potential for Russia-Holland co-production

Three film projects from Russia and The Netherlands were presented to potential production partners as part of a roundtable about films for children and teens in Russia and The Netherlands and opportunities for co-production.

Moscow-based ZigZag’s Svetlana Zimagorova introduced Bogatirskiy Istoria, a fairytale for children, to be directed by the veteran film-maker Vladimir Alenikov who came to wide recognition at the beginning of the 1980s with his Petrov and Vasechkin children’s musicals.

Alenikov subsequently worked in the US as a writer-producer-director on such films as Time Of Darkness (1991), The Gun (2003) and as an executive producer for Garbage, starring Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah.

His latest film, Princess War, co-produced by Vladimir Alenikov Productions and Bright Future International, had its premiere at last month’s Moscow International Film Festival and will have a special screening at this week’s Golden Apricot International Film Festival in Yerevan.

Zimagorova explained that Bogatrisky Istoria has Walt Disney’s Russian local chief Vladimir Grammatikov as an artistic director and advisor, and production is due to begin in spring 2014.

She added that ZigZag is interested in attracting foreign production partners to come onboard the project and would like to cast some Western actors as the baddies in the story.

Proline’s Leonid Choub then presented Valeria Gai Germanika’s next feature The Dream-God which, he explained, would be targeted at an audience between 8 and 80. The contemporary adaptation of a story by Hans Christian Andersen won the best pitch award at last month’s Moscow Business Square.

Following a discussion about co-producing between Russia and The Netherlands - including the experiences of producer Evgeny Gindilis and director Jos Stelling on Duska and The Girl And Death - , Fuworks’ San Fu Maltha spoke about the plans for Peter Greenaway’s next feature Eisenstein in Guanamato which is due to start shooting in Mexico in November .

He added that casting sessions will be held in Moscow at the end of July to find a Russian actor to play Eisenstein and possibly another three Russian actors for other characters in the film.

The fifth edition of VOICES next year will dedicate its regional focus to British cinema to coincide with the Russia - Great Britain Year of Culture which begins in June 2014.