'Be Calm,' 'Breathless' and 'Rosary' top festival

Pics from Iran, South Korea and Turkey took top honors in the three VPRO Tiger Awards on Friday night as the Rotterdam Festival entered its final weekend.

“Be Calm and Count to Seven” from Iranian helmer Ramtin Lavafipour is a tale of smugglers dodging the law in the country’s southern islands. Project was supported by the fest’s Hubert Bals Fund for film in developing countries.

South Korean pic “Breathless,” by actor-director Yang Ik-June, is about a gangster who falls under the spell of a wayward schoolgirl.

“Wrong Rosary” by Turkish helmer Mahmut Fazil Coskun recounts the romance between a muezzin, who calls the Muslim faithful to prayer, and a Catholic nurse.

Fourteen first and second films competed for the Tigers. Each is worth $19,000, plus a guaranteed slot from Dutch pubcaster VPRO.

Kudos at CineMart, the fest’s venerable co-production market, went to projects from the U.S. and Mongolia.

The Arte France Cinema Award went to Lance Weiler’s cross-media project “Him,” about a group of youngsters isolated in a rural town when the adults are struck by a sleep virus. The helmer describes it as a collision of film, gaming and interactive technology. Award is worth $13,000.

The Prince Claus Fund film grant went to “Birdie” by Byamba Sakhya, about a poor Mongolian boy struggling to live in a changing society. Award is worth $19,000, for the first creative phase of project development.

Among other awards, the fest jury focusing on Asian cinema honored “The Land” by Chinese helmer He Jia, with a special mention for “Agrarian Utopia” by Uruphong Raksasad of Thailand.

International critics gave the Fipresci award to Tiger candidate “Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly,” from Indonesian helmer Edwin. Local scribes favored “Tony Manero” by Pablo Larrain.

The Audience Award went to “Slumdog Millionaire,” screening in the festival ahead of its local release on Feb. 12. Pic also won the junior jury’s vote.

Out of 33 films in the fest whose production was supported by the Hubert Bals Fund, the public liked “Teza” best. It takes home the Dioraphte prize, worth $13,000. Haile Gerima’s pic tells the story of a man trying to come to terms with his Ethiopian homeland after two periods of exile.

Total attendance at the fest was slightly down, with 341,000 visitors compared to 355,000 last year.

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