Czech student wins short-feature prize at fest

“Baba,” a psychological drama directed by Czech Zuzana Kirchnerova-Spidlova, won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinefondation selection of short- and medium-length features from film school students worldwide Friday.

“Baba,” which follows a young woman unwillingly caring for her dying grandmother, won E15,000 ($20,000). Pic will screen in Cannes’ Official Selection next year.

Laurent Jacob, Cinefondation selection coordinator, said it was a milestone for a Czech film to win at Cannes.

A Chinese student from the  Beijing Film Academy, Song Fang, took second prize for drama “Goodbye.”

Third prize was shared by Israeli helmer Yaelle Kayam’s “Diploma,” about a Jewish settlement, and Korean suspenser “Don’t Step Out the House,” directed by Jo Sung-hee.

British director John Boorman, who topped the Cinefondation jury, pointed out that three of the top four prizes went to femmes. “It seems that the future of films is in the hands of women.”

Out of 1,400 submissions, the jury selected 17 films, including Italian 2-D toon “Il Naturalista,”  directed by Giulia Barbera, Gianluca Lo Presti, Frederico Parodi and Michele Tozzi; French drama “The Setback,” from Dominique Baumard  at Paris’ La Femis film school; and “Gutter,” by Daniel Day from NYU.

“For 12 months the Cinefondation teams find talent from all over the world, wherever they are: Festivals, schools, meetings, cultural institutions,” said Cannes Festival prexy and Cinefondation founder Gilles Jacob.

He said 13 Cinefondation alums have films playing at Cannes this year.

“Our dearest wish is to help forge the contours of a young cinema landscape,” Jacob added.

Cinefondation alums include Serb Vladimir Perisic whose “Ordinary People” played to upbeat reactions in Critics’ Week.

The Cinefondation also hosted the fifth Atelier workshop during the fest, which allows filmmakers to meet producers and distributors, and fast-track finance for their projects.

This year, the Atelier featured 15 projects, including  Zhang Yuan’s “Executioner Garden,” Faouzi Bensaidi’s “Death for Sale” and Diego Lerman’s “Moral Sciences.”

“Despite the recession, the energy level at the Atelier has been stronger than ever,” said Cinefondation director Georges Goldenstern. “Usually, we set up about 200 meetings during the  festival. This year we’ve had more than 300.”

Six U.S. companies held meetings with Atelier filmmakers, including Altadena, Sundance Channel, FiGa Films and Lane Streets Pictures.

“This is a sign that American producers are looking for emerging directors and probably smaller-budget films,” Goldenstern said.

(John Hopewell contributed to this report.)

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