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Austria film fest crosses Europe

Six-day event focused on Eastern pix

LINZ, Austria — Coming on the heels of the accession of eight former Soviet bloc countries into the European Union, Austria’s new Crossing Europe Festival couldn’t have been better timed.

Six-day fest, which closed Sunday, devoted far more attention to Eastern European films than most Western European fests do.

“It was a coincidence, but I’m very happy we could use this coincidence,” fest director Christine Dollhofer said. “The festival was an overview of Europe and young contemporary directors.”

The pilot edition featured 143 films, all but one of them Austrian premieres.

Fest’s top prize went to Teona Strugar Mitevska’s debut “How I Killed a Saint,” from Macedonia, starring the helmer’s better-known sister Labina Mitevska. The Local Artist award went to experimental video director Michaela Schwentner for “Jet.”

Asked to direct the festival after being ousted from Austria’s Diagonale festival last year, Dollhofer brought with her a wave of support from the film community.

Fest registered 450 guests and 8,500 visitors on a budget of just over $300,000.

Event dates conflicted with those of another young festival, Anifest, just across the Czech border. Next year’s edition will take place one week earlier, April 26-May 1.