Stories Only Exist When Remembered wins the Grand Prix for Best Film; Special Award goes to Magic Valley; Konstantin Bojanov wins Best Director and three more.

Brazilian filmmaker Julia Murat’s fiction feature debut Stories Only Exist When Remembered won the Grand Prix for Best Film in the International Competition of this year’s Sofia International Film Festival (SIFF) (March 9-18, 2012).

The Brazilian-Argentine-French co-production premiered at the Venice Days last September and is being handled internationally by the French co-producer MPM Films.

The International Jury, headed by UK director David MacKenzie and including French producer Marc Baschet and Slovenian director Jan Cvitkovic, gave its Special Award to Magic Valley by US filmmaker Jaffe Zinn and the Best Director Award to local director Konstantin Bojanov for his feature debut Ave.

Bojanov, whose film had originally been pitched at a previous edition of the Sofia Meetings and opened the festival on March 9, also received the Domain Boyar Award for best Balkan Film, the Bulgarian Guild of Film Critics’ Special Award and the Kodak Award for Best Bulgarian Feature Film.

The Balkan Jury, chaired by veteran US producer Jim Stark and including Moldovan writer-director Ana-Felicia Scutelnicu and Austrian film expert Peter Zawrel, also made Special Mentions of the French actress Ariane Labed in Alps and the Turkish actor Serkan Ercan in Toll Booth.

The awards ceremony in Sofia’s National Palace of Culture also saw the presentation of the FIPRESCI International Film Critics Prize to Dejan Zecevic’s The Enemy and the Audience Award to Vladimir Blazhevski’s Punk’s Not Dead.

Meanwhile, a new prize was sponsored this year by UNESCO for the festival’s Documentary Competition and awarded to This Is Not A Film by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi.

In addition, three awards were handed out at the end of the ninth edition of the Sofia Meetings where first, second and third feature projects were presented in public to an audience of potential co-producers, funders, sales agents and distributors.

The Ukrainian project Rhinoceros by director Oleg Sentsov and producer Olga Zhurzhenko received both the Best Pitching Award and Best Project Award in the Second Films Programme, while the Best Project Award in the Meetings’ Plus Minus One section went to Bulgarian director Stefan Valdobrev and producers Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova for Pancho And Alice, a comedy drama based on a true story about a Romeo and Juliet couple in their 70’s separated by the Iron Curtain. Pancho And Alice also received a scholarship to attend the Mediterranean Film Institute.

This year’s festival also saw the Sofia Municipality and the festival presenting the Sofia Award for outstanding contribution to world cinema to four directors: Bosnia’s Danis Tanovic, Turkey’s Nure Bilge Ceylan, Bulgaria’s Georgi Stoyanov, and veteran UK filmmaker Hugh Hudson who was honoured at the weekend with a special Olympic screening of his Oscar-winner Chariots of Fire with actor Ben Cross and the Olympic champion Maria Grozdeva in attendance.

Previous recipients have included Peter Greenaway, the late Theo Angelopoulos, Sr Alan Parker, Volker Schlöndorff, Claudia Cardinale, Vanessa Redgrave and Wim Wenders.

Moreover, the Bulgarian Film Producers’ Association presented a new award recognising the contribution to promotion of the Bulgarian cinema to the teams of Sofia International Film Festival and Sofia Meetings.

SIFF presented a total of 260 films from 52 countries and welcomed over 300 international guests over the ten days, closing on Saturday evening with screenings of Borislav Kolev’s debut documentary portrait Stoichkov about the Bulgarian football superstar Hristo Stoichkov and Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning A Separation.

A selection of the festival programme will now be screened from today (March 19) to March 29 in Sofia, Burgas, Plovdiv and Varna.