Farhadi's pic wins Best of the Best competition

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA — Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s “Nader and Simin, a Separation,” about marital breakdown set against a backdrop of political and family turmoil, won the grand prize at the second St Petersburg Film Festival Kino Forum on Friday.

The film, which nabbed the Berlinale’s Golden Bear for film plus actor and actress Silver Bears for its ensemble cast, was one of 10 in the Best of the Best competition that presents films that have won acclaim at other fests.

Audience awards went to Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki for “Le Havre,” Charly Braun for “Beyond the Road” and Russian director Bakur Bakuradze for Cannes Un Certain Regard screener “The Hunter.”

The New Territories competision, devoted to young directors with innovative films or techniques, gave kudos to China’s Miaoyan Zhang for “Black Blood,” about a family that contracts AIDS after selling blood to a clinic.

Best director in this section went to Sri Lankan director Sanjeewa Pushpakumara for “Flying Fish,” set during the country’s bitter civil war and based on the director’s own experiences.

In an emotional acceptance speech at St Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Theater he paid credit to Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky and Iranian drector Jafar Panahi who, he said, “faced death” for his activities.

A special mention went to Vahid Vakilifar for “Gesher” and a special fest nod to director Lee Tamahori for “The Devil’s Double,” starring British thesp Dominic Cooper in a dual role as Saddam Hussein’s psychotic son Udey and his double, Latif Yahia.

Film, a Netherlands/Belgium co-production, played out-of-competition in a gala screening.

The fest, launched last year as a tribute to war films timed to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII, added the competitions this year as the city government — which funds the fest — positions itself as a location for international productions.

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