Tajikistani pic nabs 3 top nods at fest

TURIN, Italy — First-time directors Jamshed Usmonov and Min Biong Hun scored a triple victory at the 16th Turin Film Festival with their gentle folktale about inequality and injustice, “The Flight of the Bee,” dedicated to Satyajit Ray and seemingly inspired by the humanist cinema of the late Indian maestro.

The low-budget feature from Tajikistan — shot under harsh conditions during the former Soviet state’s ongoing civil war — was awarded the $18,000 top prize by the main competition jury, plus the Fipresci international critics award and the audience nod for most popular film of the fest, which wrapped Nov. 29.

Two special jury prizes of $6,000 each went to Berlin-based Irish filmmaker Eoin Moore’s first feature, “Break Even,” about two prostitutes and a petty criminal; and to Russian director Lidija Bobrowa’s attempt to fathom the mysteries of her country’s soul, “In That Land.” Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda was awarded best screenplay for his playful examination of death, “After Life.”

Distrib award

The fest’s newly established distribution-incentive award, the Premio Nestle, went to “Three Stories,” a drama about recovering drug addicts by debuting Italian directors Piergiorgio Gay and Roberto San Pietro. The prize consists of $12,000 to the filmmakers and $60,000 to the distrib that picks up national theatrical rights.

Clocking a 20% increase in accredited guests and a 15% hike in ticket sales, the fest marked the final edition for long-time director Alberto Barbera, who has been with the event since its inception 16 years ago, and has been running it since 1989.

During that time he has built the Turin fest into one of Europe’s premier showcases for innovative new filmmakers, making it Italy’s second-ranked film event after Venice. As previously reported, Barbera begins a four-year term as director of the Venice fest next month.

“I’m leaving Turin with many regrets for two fundamental reasons,” Barbera told Daily Variety. “One is that the festival has grown more successful every year and this growth still shows no sign of stopping. The second is that working conditions here have always been ideal, in terms of my collaborators, of the city and the sponsors. This kind of climate is rare for a festival, and Venice promises to be a much more complex operation.”

Della Casa in charge

Replacing Barbera in Turin will be his longtime sidekick Stefano Della Casa. A film critic who also has been with the event since its first edition, Della Casa, 45, until now was programmer of the competitive short film and Italian sections. Gianni Rondolino will continue to serve as president.

Among the highlights at this year’s fest was the European premiere of the restored version of Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil,” presented by Oscar-winning editor Walter Murch, film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum and producer Rick Schmidlin, who were among those responsible for restoring the 1958 film to Welles’ original specifications.

Festgoers joked that the director’s cantankerous spirit was hovering over the event when an assembly snafu caused the order of two reels to be reversed at the first showing, resulting in the early death and subsequent resurrection of a key character.

The restored film recently was acquired for Italian release by Sacher Distribuzione, the new unit run by director Nanni Moretti and his producer partner Angelo Barbagallo. It will go out on subtitled prints next spring under its original Italian title “L’Infernale Quinlan.”

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