Karlovy Vary Competition Title ‘Babai’ Wins Big at German New Talent Awards

'Babai' Wins Big at German New
Courtesy of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — “Babai,” which has its international premiere in competition at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival this week, was the big winner at the Munich Film Festival’s German Cinema New Talent Awards on Friday. The jury described “Babai” as a “masterpiece.”

The director award went to “Babai’s” Visar Morina, who is from Kosovo but moved to Germany as a child. His feature debut tells the story of 10-year-old Nori, who lives in Kosovo. His father Gezim dominates his world, but one day Gezim leaves for work in Germany. Nori refuses to accept this sudden disappearance.

“The film forces us to cry — tears of rage, helplessness and mourning — and then casts us back into life full of hope, even more strength and especially responsibility. Responsibility for our lives. For life itself. The lives people live. With each other. ‘Babai’ is a masterpiece from a young master for whom we have great respect and gratitude,” said the jury.

Morina also took the screenplay award. The jury said: “When all the fears of failure finally disappear. The fear of not being good enough. Of being ostracized and alone. When all the wrong things don’t mean anything, a soft voice can be heard. Precious and shy. Relentless, not sugary in the least — but full of truth and love. ‘Babai’ is written in this voice from the very first to the very last line. It had us spellbound, moved and overwhelmed,” the jury said.

And the film took the award for actor, which was shared by Astrit Kabashi and Val Maloku, who — in their first film roles — play the father and son. They “convinced and moved us,” said the jury. “How the son, like a small adult, confronts his father for leaving him, for betraying him by leaving for Germany without him, just ‘beat it,’ is unforgettable. The father, on the other hand, is torn between his understandable desire for a new chance in life, and his feelings for his son, who forces him to take responsibility and fulfill his obligations as a father,” the jury added.

“Both of them perform so naturally, it is almost as if it was their own story. Through them, we understand what happens to people when their desire to live a normal life of self-determination remains unfulfilled, and they have to struggle to make that wish come true,” the jury said, adding Maloku’s and Kabashi’s performances “startled and touched us to the core.”

“Babai” is produced by NiKo Film’s Nicole Gerhards. She is a very experienced producer so was not eligible for the German Cinema New Talent Award for best production, which went to producers Sonja Ewers and Steve Hudson of Cologne-based Gringo Films for comedy “Happy Hour.” The movie, which was directed by Franz Müller, “blew away the entire jury and was absolutely impressive on all levels,” said the jury. It follows a warmhearted group of fortysomething friends on a journey of self-discovery in Ireland.

“This witty and wise comedy stands out because of its first-rate screenplay, perfect timing, a brilliant sense of humor, charm and marvelous camera work,” the jury said. “A successful low-budget production through and through with a brilliant cast that will have great potential at the box office.”

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