Talya Lavie’s Zero Motivation won the Grand Prix at this year’s Odessa International Film Festival (OIFF), overshadowed in its final days by the shooting down of a Malaysian Airways plane.

Lavie’s debut feature, handled internationally by The Match Factory, was voted by the festival-goers to receive the Golden Duke statuette and the $12,000 cash prize.

Director Lavie and actress Shani Klein were accompanied on stage by the Israel Film Fund Katriel Schory to accept the Grand Prix from the hands of the OIFF president Viktoriya Tigipko.

News of the Malaysian Airways plane tragedy broke early on Thursday evening during a reception in honour of Turkish films showing at the festival.

A minute’s silence was held in memory of the crash victims ahead of Gogol Wives’ documentary Pussy vs Putin that evening.

On Friday, another minute of silence was held at the beginning of the awards ceremony in memory of the aeroplane’s passengers as well as the Ukrainian actor Vitaliy Linetskiy, best known for his role in Firecrosser, who died earlier that day aged 42.

Following Thursday’s plane crash, Tigipko said changes would be made to the procedures for the closing ceremony on Saturday evening, and the gala reception and evening entertainment would be cancelled.

Meanwhile, candles were lit on the square in front of the Festival Palace for those who had perished in the crash.

Closing ceremony

The festival’s closing ceremony before the screening of the Belgian film Paper Souls began with the presentation of a honorary Golden Duke statuette to the veteran Ukrainian director Kira Muratova for her contribution to cinema.

The international jury, headed by the UK director Peter Webber, gave its award for best film to Levan Koguashvili’s festival circuit favourite Blind Dates “for a heartwarming story in keeping with the best traditions of Georgian cinema”.

Black Coal, Thin Ice’s Yinan Diao was named the competition’s best director for “a compellingly directed, unflinching phase of the dark contemporary China”.

Angélique Litzenburger received the first film honour of her career with the best actress award for her “brave and intimate performance” in the French film Party Girl.

The jury also gave special mentions to Mexican Alonso Ruizpalacios’ Gueros and Russian film-maker Anna Melikyan’s Star.

Ukrainian awards

Ahead of the festival-goers’ choice for the Grand Prix and the international jury’s awards, the winners were announced on Friday for the best pitch and work in progress awards as well as for best Ukrainian short and actor and the FIPRESCI Prize.

The Ukrainian National Film Award jury under Russian documentary film-maker Vitaly Mansky named Maria Kondakova’s Fallen Leaves best Ukrainian short film.

Three special diplomas were presented to DoP Sergey Mikhalchuk for his work on The Guide, director Volodymyr Tykhy for his psychological thriller The Green Jacket, and to the husband-and-wife team Maryna Er Gorbach and Mehmet Bahadir Er for the first ever Ukrainian-Turkish co-production Love Me.

The newly created best acting award was shared by The Guide’s Stanislav Boklan and Love Me’s Ushan Cakir.

Industry Awards

Ukrainian producer Igor Savychenko and his Polish partner Dariusz Jablonski of Apple Film were successful for the second year in a row as the winners of the Film Industry Office’s Best Pitch Award.

A cash prize of UAH 50,000 ($4,300) was awarded for the development of Marysia Nikitiuk’s When The Trees Are Falling. Last year, the duo had picked up the same award for Marina Vroda’s drama Stepne.

The prolific Savychenko also pitched another two projects - The Way Of the Deadman and Misty In Places – at Odessa’s industry platform this year and had two productions (The Green Jacket and The Guide) in the National Feature Competition.

The Film Industry Office also presented a special screening of the documentary omnibus project #Babylon’13 which involved Savychenko as a producer.

In addition, the jury of Connecting Cottbus artistic director Bernd Buder, Warsaw Film Festival director Stefan Laudyn and Russian producer Yevgeny Gindilis gave a special mention to Konstantin Konovalov’s biopic Oleksandr Dovzhenko. Odessa Debut.

Two new awards were also presented this year to projects presented within the Film Industry Office’s ‘Works in Progress’ showcase.

The jury of Alpha Violet’s Keiko Funato, Rezo Films’ Laurent Danielou and Eye On Films’ Nawid Sarem awarded the prize of $3,000 worth of flights with Ukraine’s UIA to Taras Tkachenko’s debut feature, the Ukrainian-Italian co-production The Nest Of The Turtle Dove, which stars the late Vitaly Linetsky.

And an award of $17,000 worth of advertising services on the megogo.net platforms in Ukraine and Russia was presented to My Grandmother Fanni Kaplan by Alyona Demyanenko.

Meanwhile, the FIPRESCI Jury’s winners from the National Ukrainian shorts and feature competitions were Lesia Kordonets’ graduation film from Zurich’s University of the Arts, Balazher. The Corrections Of Reality, and Volodymyr Tykhy’s The Green Jacket, with special mentions for Maria Kondakova’s Fallen Leaves and Valentyn Vasyanovych’s feature documentary Crepuscule, which was awarded the Golden Duke for Best Ukrainian Feature by the National Competition jury.

According to OIFF president Tigipko, around 105,000 people attended the programme of screenings and events.

“Each of the nine festival days proved that holding it against everything was the right decision,” she said at the closing ceremony.

“Many full houses and standing ovations proved it. We are happy to have held the fifth anniversary festival.”

The sixth edition will be held from July 10-18, 2015.

Germany’s MDM backs Mansky project

Vitaly Mansky, the chairman of OIFF’s National Competition Jury, received funding this week from Leipzig-based MDM for his latest documentary project In den Strahlen der Sonne.

Mansky, who is reunited on this project with Saxonia Entertainment producer Simone Baumann after their collaboration on the award-winning Pipeline, had already been filming in his native town of Lviv and will now shoot in Odessa.

A total of 29 projects were backed with more than €3m ($4m) including:

  • Radu Muntean’s One Floor Below, pitched at Connecting Cottbus in 2012 and produced by Neue Mediopolis Filmproduktion, co-producer of detained film-maker Oleg Sentsov’s second feature, Rhino;

  • Kirghiz filmmaker Aktan Arym Kubat’s Centaur, another collaboration with Thanassis Karathanos of Pallas Film after The Light Thief;

  • Mario Schneider’s Naked Beauty, to be produced by Corn Island co-producer 42film;

  • Indonesian-born visual artist Fiona Tan’s History’s Future, co-written by Tan and Jonathan Romney.

  • Sebastian Cordero’s Such Is Life In The Tropics, co-produced by Stelios Ziannis’ Aktis Film Produktion, a partner on Otar Shamatova’s drama Ursus. The Caucasian Brown Bear, which was presented in Odessa’s ‘Works in Progress’ showcase last week.