Thriller wins top prize at film festival

Bulgarian film “Investigation,” a tense psychological dual revolving around a workaholic female cop and a male murder suspect, directed by Iglika Trifonova, took the main prize at the closing ceremony Saturday of the 17th Cottbus Festival of East European Cinema.

Trifonova, who in 1993 made a documentary plea in “Murder Stories” for Bulgaria to end its then-in-force death penalty turned to fiction for “Investigation.”

Russian director Vera Storozheva’s film “Traveling With Pets” — which also focuses on one woman’s journey, this time to self-discovery and metamorphosis after she is released from a lonely and loveless marriage by the death of her husband — was the other big winner at Cottbus, Europe’s leading film showcase from the former Eastern Bloc countries.

The film picked up five of this year’s total of 13 awards, taking special prize for director, Fipresci and the Don Quixote Prize of the (international film societies) FICC jury, the prize of the ecumenical jury and a special prize for artistic contribution for the film’s lead, Ksenia Kutepova, in her screen debut.

In the short feature competition, Polish film “Porno,” by Jan Wagner, won the main prize. A special jury prize went to Russian director Leonid Rybakov’s black humor documentary about the pilots who seed the clouds above Moscow to ensure fine weather for Red Square parades — and the provincial people on whom the rain falls instead — “Stone People.”

Rybakov’s film has been picking up jury nods since its festival debut at Locarno this summer.

The From Cottbus to Cinema distribution support prize for a festival film honored “Pure Coolness,” by Kyrgyz director Ernest Abdyjaparov.

Festival audience favorite was big Czech exhibition success “Empties,” by the Jan Sverak.

A Cottbus Discovery award went to Serbia film producer Jelena Mitrovic for “The Trap,” whichwas pitched at Cottbus’ annual industry sidebar Connecting Cottbus (CoCo), which this year marked its ninth edition within the festival.

CoCo has become a must-attend industry event for many film professionals in Eastern Europe; the event, which includes panel discussions, pitching and business meetings, helps bring funding bodies, producers and directors together for an intensive and productive two-day event within the fest’s five-day run.

This year a new prize, the CoCo pitch award, which subsidizes script development, went to Serbian screenwriter and director Andrijana Stojkovic for her project “The Box.”

Overall, the Cottbus Film Festival was attended by 500 accredited guests from 32 countries, 140 professional delegates at CoCo from 22 countries. The festival’s 80 films from 25 different countries attracted some 16,000 viewers.

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