Thessaloniki Fest honors ‘Ajami’

Israeli film nabs Golden Alexander for best pic

Israeli-German co-production “Ajami” won the $60,000 top prize, the Golden Alexander for best feature at the Nov. 22 closing of the 50th Thessaloniki Film Festival. It also picked up $6,000 in a public choice award.

A participant of the festival’s first Crossroads co-production forum in 2005, produced by Mosh Danon and Thanassis Karathanos, the film was directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani. They co-wrote the script, and they tied for the screenplay kudo with Tudor Voican, scribe for Romanian film “Medal of Honor.”

“Medal of Honor” also took the Silver Alexander and $37,000 in prize money.

It also won recognition for actor Victor Rebengiuc and the Fipresci award for feature.

The actress trophy went to Ruth Nirere for her role in Rwandan genocide film “The Day God Walked Away,” a Belgium/France co-production written and directed by Philippe van Leeuw and produced by Patrick Quinet and Toussaint Tiendredeogo.

The director prize went to Rigoberto Perezcano for Mexican-Spanish co-production “Northless,” about a Mexican man trying — and failing — to cross illegally into the U.S.; an artistic achievement nod went to Korean director Lee Seo for “Missing Person”; and a new $22,000 human values award went to Samuel Maoz’s claustrophobic film of tank warfare, “Lebanon,” which took the top prize at the Venice Film Festival in September.

A $15,000 Cinema and the City Award went to Jorge Navas for “Blood and Rain,” a Colombia/Argentina co-production set in the violent streets of Bogota.

The top $22,000 award in the Digital Wave section went to Greek director Vassilis Raissis for “Elvis’ Last Song”; the film also picked up a $4,500 public choice prize. A second prize of $15,000 in the section, which focuses on Greek films made on digital cameras, went to Fotis and Apostolis Passos for their film “The Box.”

Other awards included a $6,000 public choice award for a film from the Greek section of the festival, Sophia Papachristou’s “Biloba,” and $4,500 for a film from the Balkan Survey section, “Honeymoons,” by Serbian director Goran Paskaljevic. Paskaljevic was the subject of a retrospective at the festival this year.

Special mentions for artistic achievement went to Katharina Schuttler for her role in Susanne Schneider’s German-French co-production “The Day Will Come” and to Filipino director Ralston Jover for his “Children Metal Divers.”

Fest opened Nov. 14.

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