Source: Liis Reiman / Black Nights Film Festival

‘Kontora’ director Anshul Chauhan with Mina Moteki, Max Golomidov, Wan Marui, Yuma Koda, Seira Kojima, Akira Nishibu

Japanese drama Kontora has won the grand prix at the 23rd Black Nights Film Festival, held in the Estonian capital of Tallinn.

Scroll down for full list of winners

The black-and-white feature, produced by Kowatanda Films, received its world premiere at the festival and marks the second live-action feature of India-born animator Anshul Chauhan. The story centres on a teenager who searches for a mysterious trove, guided by her grandfather’s WWII-era diary.

Chauhan, who was in Tallinn to accept the honour at an awards ceremony tonight, will receive a grant of €10,000. It also won the award for best music, with composer Yuma Koda collecting the prize.

The international jury, which included Four Weddings And A Funeral director Mike Newell, said Kontora was “brilliantly multi-layered” and “a truly cinematic experience”.

Filipino filmmaker Jun Robles Lana won best director and €5,000 for his black-and-white feature Kalel, 15. The film looks at youth culture through the eyes of the son of priest who is diagnosed with HIV. International sales are handled by Ignatius Films.

Romania’s Aline Serban won best actress for her performance as a single mother and boxer in Hüseyin Tabak’s Gipsy Queen, a Germany-Austria co-production for which ARRI Media handles world sales. It also won the Estonian Ecumenical Jury Prize.

Similarly, the UK’s Cavan Clerkin won best actor for his transformative performance in Gerard Johnson’s Muscle – another feature shot in black-and-white. Clerkin plays a man who attempts to get his life back on track by getting physically into shape. Produced by Matthew James Wilkinson’s Stigma Films, international sales are with West End Films.

The award for best script went to Evgeny Ruman and Ziv Berkovich for Golden Voices, a romantic comedy-drama that follows a couple who dubbed Soviet films for decades but move to Israel after the collapse of the USSR. It also picked up the NETPAC award. The Israeli film, which was also directed by Ruman, is sold by Intramovies.

Richard Wong was named best cinematographer for his work on Wayne Wang’s Coming Home Again. Asian Shadows handles world sales on the film about a Korean-American who cares for his dying mother while she teaches him traditional family recipes.

In addition, the First Feature Competition was won by Gregor Bozic’s post-war drama Stories From The Chestnut Woods. The Slovenia-Italy co-production is sold by Cercamon.

Best Baltic film went to Tomas Vengris’s nostalgic Lithuanian drama Motherland, for which Alpha Violet has international sales; and Feast, from Chinese director Yunxing Nie, won best film in the Rebel With a Cause strand.

UK feature Looted, which marks the first feature of Dutch director Rene van Pannevis, won the FIPRESCI award with the jury branding it “a powerful film, which stood out with its amazing energy, engaging performances and social context.”

The audience award saw the votes go to Iran’s When The Moon Was Full, Narges Abyar’s film about a newly-married woman from Teheran who discovers that new brother-in-law is a religious extremist trying to recruit her husband for his bloody cause. Iranian Independents is handling world sales.

Russian master Andrei Konchalovsky and veteran Estonian sound director Enn Säde were both honoured with lifetime achievement awards.

The 23rd Black Nights Film Festival ran from November 15 to December 1.

Black Nights Film Festival Winners 2019

Official Selection Competition

  • Grand Prix for Best Film: Kontora
  • Best Director: Jun Robles Jana, Kalel,15
  • Best Actress: Alina Serban, Gipsy Queen
  • Best Actor: Cavan Clerkin, Muscle
  • Best Script: Evgeny Ruman and Ziv Berkovich, Golden Voices
  • Best Cinematographer: Richard Wong, Coming Home Again
  • Best Music: Yuma Koda, Kontora

First Feature Competition

  • Best Film: Stories From The Chestnut Woods
  • Special Jury Prize (screenplay): Bernardo Barretto, Seeker
  • Special Jury Prize (cinematography): Bahman Tavoosi, The Names of the Flowers

Baltic Film Competition

  • Best Baltic Film: Motherland

Rebels with a Cause Competition

  • Rebel with a Cause Award: Feast
  • Rebels with their Shorts Award: The Silence of the Dying Fish

Additional Awards

  • Audience Award: When The Moon Was Full
  • FIPRESCI Award: Looted
  • NETPAC Award for Best Asian Film: Golden Voices
  • Estonian Ecumenical Jury Prize: Gipsy Queen
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Andrei Konchalovsky
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Enn Säde

Just Film Awards

  • Best Film: Boyz In The Wood
  • European Children’s Film Association Award: Binti

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