Staka pic takes Heart prize at fest

SARAJEVO — After receiving a Golden Leopard just two weeks ago at Locarno, helmer Andrea Staka’s “Das fraulein” won the Heart of Sarajevo prize for film at the 12th Sarajevo Film Festival on Saturday.

Drama from Swiss-born Staka, whose parents come from Bosnia and Croatia, recounts the friendship between three Balkan women in Zurich. The award for actress went to one of the film’s stars, Marija Skaricic.

Actor kudos went to Rakan Rushaidat for “All for Free,” directed by Antonio Nuic, a Croatia/Bosnia & Herzegovina/Serbia co-production.

Ivona Juka’s Croatian pic “Facing the Day” won the documentary award for its tale of prison life. Slovenia’s “Good Luck Nedim” took the short film prize.

Most observers agreed it was an off year for new films from the region, apart from Jasmila Zbanic’s Berlin winner “Grbavica,” which will be Bosnia & Herzegovina’s entry in the foreign-language Oscar race.

The other notable title, Corneliu Porumboiu’s “12:08 East of Bucharest,” from Romania, won the Camera d’Or in Cannes.

Most interesting sidebar, given its extreme topicality, was Panorama, programmed by American film critic Howard Feinstein.

A number of strong Israeli films, such as Tali Shemesh’s “The Cemetery Club,” about old-timers discussing world politics, and David Benchetrit’s “Dear Father, Quiet, We’re Shooting,” about conscientious objectors, ran side by side with the Lebanese film “A Perfect Day,” directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, and James Longley’s disquieting “Iraq in Fragments.”

Boasting greater attendance than last year, event again demonstrated its importance in promoting the region’s films. Nearly 600 guests from 45 countries came to Sarajevo for the fest and the CineLink production market.

Retrospectives honored U.S. director Abel Ferrara and Hungarian master Bela Tarr, while British film/theater director Mike Leigh turned up on closing night to accept an honorary Heart of Sarajevo award.

Leigh, a Sarajevo regular, has been instrumental in marshalling British film industry support for the fest. It has been directed by Mirsad Purivatra since its inception during the siege of the city 12 years ago by Bosnian Serb forces.

Venice chief Marco Muller, another longtime supporter, arrived for the closing days, though his own festival starts next week. Other guests included Emily Watson and Danny Huston, featured in Australian-set Western “The Proposition.”

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