German takes top honors at Russia’s Nika awards

Award future murky after top pics decline entry

MOSCOW — Top honors at Russia’s traditional Nika awards — territory’s equivalent of the Oscars — were swept resoundingly this year by Alexei German’s arthouse pic “Khrustalyov, My Car!”

German’s film, which played to mixed critical response in competition at Cannes in 1998, took both best film and best director awards, as well as winning in the design, costume and cinematography categories.

However, mood at the prize-giving, held April 22 in Moscow’s Dom Kino, was hardly upbeat. After two leading contenders — Nikita Mikhalkov (“The Barber of Siberia”) and Alexander Sokurov (“Moloch”) — had withdrawn their films from participation in the Nika awards, many were wondering whether the event itself had a future.

Event toppers Victor Merezhko and Yuly Gusman couldn’t help alluding to this, joking that the award ceremony was being held for the 13th time — and on the anniversary of the birth of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin.

Though Mikhalkov has long preferred not to submit his films for local competition events, Sokurov’s decision, which was announced a month ago after his film had already been shortlisted in a number of categories, came as a surprise.

Both helmers have attracted criticism for the fact that their decision to withdraw their pics meant that they could not be nominated in any category, effectively depriving their cast and crew of any chance of victory.

Nina Usatova won best actress for her role in Valery Ogorodnikov’s “The Barrack.” Veteran Mikhail Ulyanov took best actor for “The Voroshilov Sharp-Shooter.” A lifetime achievement special award was given to Mikhail Shveitzer (“The Golden Calf,” “The Kreutzer Sonata”), who turned 80 earlier this year.

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