Banned film wins Febio prize

Award may help 'Magnus' in Estonia

PRAGUE — An Estonian film banned at home has scored the main prize at Prague’s most popular film gala, Febiofest. The award may help the pic, “Magnus,” to be released at home.

“I think it’s time for the distributors to come back,” quipped helmer/scribe Kadri Kousaar, who was inspired to make the Euros 50,000 ($78,180) feature, a lyrical tale of a sensitive young man’s death wish, after meeting the father of a real life suicide victim.

Mart Laisk, whose son’s death was the inspiration for the story, plays himself in the powerful tale, rendered in a rich, melancholy atmosphere by Pawel Sobczyk’s lensing and with a soundtrack by Canadian band Set Fire to Flames.

Though the account is fictionalized, the mother of the suicide victim has sued, alleging invasion of privacy, resulting in an Estonian court’s ban on the film up to now. Another ruling is expected to resolve the case in two weeks, says Kousaar.

In the meantime, buzz has only been building, with “Magnus” supporters holding secret screenings for growing numbers of Estonians. Lawsuit fears resulted in pic’s non-presence at the Tallinn fest in December and at other Baltic fests.

Pic, produced by Kousaar’s friend, Donal Fernandes, has no distrib as yet, but the Febio kudo is bound to help its fate, despite litigation jitters among some, the young helmer said.

Febio, in its 15th edition, expects to draw over 60,000 Czech attendees before it wraps on Saturday, drawing in full houses of auds generally deprived of arthouse and world cinema the rest of the year for screenings of 249 pics and the concurrent Febiofest Music Festival. Talks by helmers Roy Andersson, Jos Stelling, Nae Caranfil and Nina Menkes were also big draws.

“It’s almost impossible to get these films screened anywhere except at festivals,” said producer Jim Stark, an early backer of Jim Jarmusch.

Such fests continue to play a key role in helping arthouse distribs and scouts to find talent, Stark said. “Most of the filmmakers I’ve worked with I’ve met at festivals.”

Febio also honored guest Alan Parker with its Kristian award for lifetime achievement, while Czech surrealist Jan Balej won the animation prize for “One Night in One City.”

Jan Sikl picked up the docu prize for “A Private Century,” while Petr Nikolaev scored best feature with “It’s Gonna Get Worse,” a low-budget black-and-while pic centering on disaffected small-town youth under the pre-1989 communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

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