‘Lea’ nabs top Brussels honors

BRUSSELS — Czech helmer Ivan Fila cleaned up Saturday at Brussels’ second competitive film fest, receiving both the $150,000 top prize for best film and the $35,000 Nescafe Golden Bean audience prize, awarded by a vote of 3,000 festgoers, for his dark love story “Lea.”

The top prize (the Crystal Star) and the Golden Bean, which were presented by the jury president, Australian director Paul Cox, are intended to finance distribution, subtitling and promotion of the winning film throughout the EU and in Belgium, respectively. It will be handed over to the first-time helmer either in cash or in the form of services to be shared among the European distributors that release the film in their territories.

The pic, about a 50-year-old German antique restorer who falls in love with, and buys from her stepparents, a young Slovenian girl who has not spoken since she was seven, was praised by Cox for its “dramatic intensity, po-etry and generosity.”

Organizers of the fest hope the $150,000 prize, awarded for the first time to Peter Chelsom last year for his bittersweet comedy “Funny Bones,” will put Brussels on the map as a key Euro fest city.

John Malkovich was in attendance opening night as guest of honor to receive the Crystal Iris Award for outstand-ing career.

Best actor award at this year’s fest, which ran Jan. 15-25, went to Steven Mackintosh for his role as a transsexual in Brit helmer Richard Spence’s “Different for Girls.” Best actress went to Julie Gayet for her role in French film “Select Hotel,” directed by Laurent Bouhnik.

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