Cottbus ups prize money to $93,000

Festival for East European pics opens

MOSCOW — Europe’s longest-running movie event devoted to film from Eastern Europe opens Tuesday in Cottbus, Germany, with a prize purse worth a total of Euros 64,000 ($92,600) — up nearly a fifth on last year’s figure.

Credited with keeping Eastern European film in the spotlight since 1991 — during a period when filmmakers in the region struggled to come to terms with the collapse of the old Communist order — the Cottbus Festival of Eastern European Cinema this year has a special focus on films from the countries of the former-Yugoslavia.

Held in a small town between Berlin and Dresden in what used to be East Germany, more than 500 professional visitors from 30 countries are due to attend this year’s showcase, organizers said Monday.

Founded by a group of film club enthusiasts keen to ensure Communist-era Eastern European filmmaking links were not lost as the region changed rapidly in the 1990s, the Cottbus festival has grown in stature to become a major event for film professionals from the former Communist states.

Strategically situated between Poland and the Czech Republic and easily accessible from Russia, Hungary, the Balkans and Baltics, Cottbus offers both Western and Eastern European film professionals a venue that is both big enough to showcase up to 10 or more competition features — many of them premieres — and a small enough environment to facilitate business meetings.

The Connecting Cottbus professional sidebar co-production market event that runs during the festival has become a key meeting point for regional producers during a period mid way between the big festival markets at Cannes in May and Berlin in February. German film fund heads and other professionals from Western Europe also view the event as a key opportunity to find co-production projects.

Karina Hemmo, spokeswoman for the festival, said that 120 professionals were expected to attend the 9th Connecting Cottbus event at which 13 central and East European feature film projects seeking international co-producers will be presented.

“The way in which two film projects were realized will be the subject of a case study: ‘Delta’ by Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo and ‘Dau’ by Russia’s Ilya Khrzhanovsky,” Hemmo said Monday.

The films’ directors and producers, Artem Vassiliev, Viktoria Petrany and the German-French co-producers Susanne Marian and Philippe Bober, will be present for the case studies.

Producers expected from across the Eastern European region include: Bosnia’s Ademir Kenovic of Refresh Production, Slovenia’s Danijel Hocevar of Emotionfilm, Czech producer Pavel Strna of Negativ Film, and others leading industry figures.

The festival, which runs through until Saturday, has 10 features in competition: “The Living and the Dead,” a co-production between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, directed by Croat Kristijan Milic; Serbian director Aleksander Rajkovic’s “Hamlet”; Russia helmer Andrei Zvyagintsev’s “The Banishment,” which plays in its German premiere; fellow Russian Vera Storozheva’s drama of family love and hatred, guilt and atonement, “Traveling with Pets”; Krygyz bride kidnap caper “Pure Coolness” (dir: Ernest Abdyschaparov); Polish director Andrej Jakimowski’s thoughtful family comedy “Tricks” — named Poland’s best film this year; Georgia’s “The Russian Triangle” — a fascinating take on the war in Chechnya that stars Russian blockbuster “Nightwatch” lead Konstantin Khabensky; thriller “Investigation” by Bulgaria’s Iglika Trifonova; psychological drama “Rules of Lies” (dir: Robert Sedlacek, Czech Republic); and Hungarian director Janos Szasz’s intense arthouse film “Opium — A Madwoman’s Diary.”

The festival opens Tuesday evening at the Cottbus Staastheaterat with a screening of Leipzig, Germany-born director Franziska Meletzky’s “According to the Plan,” which is set in East Germany. Leading actress Christine Schorn and film’s producers will be in attendance, Hemmo said.

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