Vienna doc waltzes

'Bellaria' honored as retooled TV fest opens

MONTE CARLO — German broadcaster WDR walked away Tuesday with the top doc prize at the Monte Carlo TV Festival, for director Douglas Wolfsperger’s “Bellaria, As Long As We Live.”

Jury president Yves Coppens, a celebrated paleontologist, said the docu epitomized “with talent, tenderness and nostalgia” a daily life in Vienna, “which is fast being swept away.” Pic follows a group of elderly film fans trying to hold on to their lost youth.

Sponsored by the Intl. Radio and Television University (URTI), the Grand Prix, aimed at recognizing science and culture, was handed out on the second day of the six-day event in the Riviera principality.

The fest opened Monday with a star-studded ceremony presided over by Prince Albert of Monaco, and featured a lineup of celebrities that included British actress Judy Parfitt, Spanish TV producer Herve Hachuel, and American thesps Christopher McDonald and Stuart Wilson.

Hallmark Entertainment chairman Robert Halmi Sr. was present for the Euro premier of the company’s six-hour mini “Dinotopia,” which also screened on the opening night.

Fest facelift

The fest is 42 years old but has recently undergone a revamp after being dogged for years by forecasts that it would, well, go the way of the dinosaurs.

The revamp includes moving the fest from its former mid-February dates to the first week of July and doing away with a TV program market.

By taking the business brief out of the event and focusing on the creative side, fest prexy Prince Alexandre de Merode of Belgium told Daily Variety, the fest underscores its original intent, which was to make Monte Carlo television’s answer to the Cannes Film Fest.

Festival exec VP David Tomatis admitted the repositioning of the festival is “risky and it won’t be easy,” but he added that the royal family and the principality of Monaco, which subsidize the festival, are squarely behind the changes.

“We want this festival and the Golden Nymph awards to be a reference point for quality and creativity in the TV industry,” Tomatis said.

With several U.S. shows nominated for Golden Nymphs, a lineup of Yank producers are skedded to descend on Monaco for the awards ceremony Saturday night.

Rumanian channel TVR also picked up a Silver Medal for its doc “Exercises in Liberty,” about the overthrow of the former Romanian dictatorship.

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