KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — The Poles and Israelis came from behind to conquer the 40th Karlovy Vary Film Festival, which wrapped Saturday amid a Carnival-esque ceremony that required the theater to be cleared of fireworks smoke.
Krzysztof Krauze’s “My Nikifor,” based on the life of disabled Polish painter Epifan Drowniak and featuring a knockout perf by octogenarian Krystyna Feldman as the male painter, won over the Crystal Globe jury to take grand prix, director and actress kudos.
“What a Wonderful Place,” helmer-scribe Eyal Halfon’s quirky story of human trafficking in Israel, scored special jury prize. Leading man Uri Gavriel, the film’s morally conflicted ex-cop trafficker, split the actor prize with Luca Zingaretti of Italo social drama “Come Into the Light,” based on Sicilian Archbishop Giuseppe Puglisi’s struggle against the mafia.
Czech/Slovak entry “City of the Sun,” thought to be favored after jury chair Michael Radford (“Il Postino”) commented on fest’s proper role in fostering Central and Eastern European film, went home empty-handed, as did two others getting buzz, Sweden/U.K.’s “Queen of Sheba’s Pearls” and Danish/Chinese melodrama “Chinaman,” which was picked up for local distribution by Prague’s Cinemart.
“Estamira,” Marcos Prado’s look at a schizophrenic Brazilian garbage-dump resident, took the over-30-minute docu prize nod, while Belarus’ “My God” won the under-30-minute section.
Docu helmer and juror John Appel cited a lack of quality entries as one frustration in the short docu division, quipping, “If less was spent on parties, more could be spent on films.” In reality, many Karlovy Vary parties are hosted by associations, institutes and fest’s Industry Office, and deals tend to be made there in the absence of a formal market.
No westward-bound film sales were reported completed as fest closed, despite increased industry presence and interest in response to the East of the West sidebar’s elevation to official competish. Also, several panels and workshops promoted productions from the region.
Among the noncompetition prizes, the Independent Camera Award, which gives gear and coin to creators of the winning Forum of Independents sidebar entry, went to Argentina’s “The Dead,” a minimalist tale of a man’s journey up a jungle river to find his family.
Nine-day fest, which saw 12,112 visitors, about the same as last year, was commended by industry types and celebs for its laid-back atmosphere and enthusiastic, youthful auds, who flood into this west Bohemian town every year, many camping out.
Glamour was in good supply, however, with the appearances of lifetime achievement winners Robert Redford, Sharon Stone and Liv Ullmann and guests including LQ Jones, Michael Madsen, Sarah Polley, Michael Pitt, Matt Dillon, Jeremy Davies and Gael Garcia Bernal.
“My Nikifor,” Poland
Special Jury Prize
“What a Wonderful Place,” Israel
Krzysztof Krauze, “My Nikifor”
Krystyna Feldman, “My Nikifor”
Luca Zingaretti “Come into the Light,” Italy, and Uri Gavriel, “What a Wonderful Place”
Special Jury Mention
“Sion Sono,” director of Noriko’s Dinner Table, Japan
Docu under 30 minutes
“My God,” Galina Adamovich, Belarus
Best docu over 30 minutes
“Estamira,” Marcos Prado, Brazil, East of the West
“Ragin,” Kirill Serebrennikov, Russia/Austria
“The Wedding,” Wojtech Smarzowski, Poland
Pravo Audience Award
“Life with My Father,” Sebastien Rose, Canada
Independent Camera Award
“The Dead,” Lisandro Alonso, Argentina