Marrakech fest has a ‘Ball’

Film festival gives top honor to Estonian film

MARRAKECH — French film icon Catherine Deneuve awarded the Marrakech Intl. Film Festival’s top honor, the Golden Star, to Estonian film “Autumn Ball” at the closing ceremony Saturday night.

Helmer Dwelling Veiko Ounpuu’s pic about six people living in a Soviet-era tower block was a favorite with festival audiences as well as jury members.

Producer Katrin Klessa accepted the award on Ounpuu’s behalf at the Palais des Congress.

The festival, now in its seventh edition, fielded 15 films in competition from as many countries.

Milos Forman, president of this year’s jury, commented on the bewildering diversity of subjects and styles. Of the jury’s deliberations, he added: “Let me tell you, it was not easy.”

Tommi Korpela nabbed actor prize for the Finnish film “Man’s Job,” about a man who becomes a prostitute to make ends meet after losing his job.

The actress honor went to Yu Yun-mi, the child star of “With a Girl of Black Soil,” directed by Korean filmmaker Jeon Soo-il, who picked up the prize on Yun-mi’s behalf. Pic is about a rural town where the mines are closing down.

However, there was a sense that the competition was neither fresh nor consistent. Many of the films had already premiered at bigger festivals earlier in the year.

A few of the films — Algeria’s “The Other Side of the Mirror” and Morocco’s “Samira’s Garden” — were both disappointing and potentially misleading, especially if they were taken (as some attending critics did) as the best or only examples of Arab cinema. Far better films from the region have circulated in 2007.

Still, the jury broke with convention and doled out two jury prizes, for the Russian film “The Hard-Hearted,” by Alexey Mizgirev, an edgy account of life in lawless Moscow; and “Slingshot,” by Filipino Brillante Mendoza, a gritty experimental feature about young thieves and petty criminals in Manila.

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