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U.S. Independent Movie ‘Bob and the Trees’ Wins Top Award at Karlovy Vary Film Festival

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — Diego Ongaro’s debut feature, a portrait of a prickly American iconoclast, “Bob and the Trees,” won the top prize, the Crystal Globe, at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival Saturday. The event, which is Eastern and Central Europe’s leading film festival, wrapped amid nostalgic film clips of past decades and an emotional tribute to its 50th edition.

Massachusetts logger Bob Tarasuk, who inspired the U.S. independent film and played himself, confessed he had never acted, and had never held a passport nor left the U.S. before, prompting cheers for his venture to the land of his grandmother.

Visar Morina, another first-time director, won the helming prize for the touching immigration story “Babai,” a German/Kosovo/Macedonia/France co-production.

Czech thesp Alena Mihulova won the actress prize for her turn as an overextended nurse in Slavek Horak’s feature debut “Home Care,” while Krystof Hadek’s performance as one of two troubled small-town brothers, appearing opposite his real-life sibling Matej in “Snake Brothers,” took the actor prize, shoring up a strong Czech presence among the winners.

Another Czech thesp, beloved comic actress Iva Janzurova, had brought the audience at the communist-era Hotel Thermal great hall to their feet earlier as she accepted the president’s prize from fest topper Jiri Bartoska.

Icelandic juror Olafur Darri Olafsson, himself a comic actor, praised the fest’s bravery in fostering talent, noting that five prizes were going to first-time filmmakers: “It gives you hope for the future of cinema.”

The jury prize went to Peter Brunner’s tender look at aging, “Those Who Fall Have Wings,” while special mentions went to Romanian Anca Damian’s wildly expressive animated story of a Polish anti-communist dissident, “The Magic Mountain,” and to Ferdinando Cito Filomarino’s tribute to an Italian poet, “Antonia.”

Fest drew north of 12,000 revelers to the picturesque promenades and 18th-century architecture in which the country’s largest film event is set, with youthful crowds lining up for hours to catch pics such as audience prize winner “Youth,” starring fest fave Harvey Keitel. The Brooklyn-born thesp promised not to drop his prize on his foot as he does in a fest trailer he filmed years back.

Audience polls also indicated a strong liking for Nadine Labaki’s Toronto hit “Where Do We Go Now?,” a French/Lebanese/Italian comedy centered on multi-faith women taking charge of a mountain village that screened at fest’s tribute to work from the Middle Eastern country.

Critics and students alike also packed cinemas for 60s and 70s Ukrainian films by Larisa Shepitko, which rendered Soviet life with remarkable humanity, and for talks with the godfather of zombie flicks, George Romero, along with workshops and half a dozen industry events promoting upcoming work.

“The Wednesday Child” by Hungary’s Lili Horvath, about cycles of abandonment for orphaned children, took home the East of the West kudo, honoring the best in cinema from former Soviet states, with special mention for Romanian Nicolae Constantin Tanase’s “The World is Mine,” a tough social drama built around teen rivalry.

Czech documentarian Helena Trestikova won the feature docu prize, taking the stage with her subject, a former addict for whom “Mallory” is titled. The beaming woman thanked Trestikova for a work that “opens not just eyes but hearts.” Docu special mention went to Austria’s Albert Meisl for “The Father Tapes,” another tribute to limited time with a loved one.

“Tangerine,” Sean Baker’s iPhone-shot celebration of transgender life in LA, took home the Forum of Independents prize, which honors boundary-pushing work.

Leo Barraclough contributed to this article.

OFFICIAL SELECTION – COMPETITION
GRAND JURY
Tim League, U.S.
Angelina Nikonova, Russia
Olafur Darri Olafsson, Iceland
Hengameh Panahi, France
Ondrej Zach, Czech Republic

GRAND PRIX – CRYSTAL GLOBE
“Bob and the Trees,” directed by Diego Ongaro (U.S.)

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“Those Who Fall Have Wings,” directed by Peter Brunner (Austria)

DIRECTOR AWARD
Visar Morina, “Babai” (Germany, Kosovo, Macedonia, France)

ACTRESS AWARD
Alena Mihulova, “Home Care,” directed by Slavek Horak (Czech Republic, Slovakia)

ACTOR AWARD
Krystof Hadek, “The Snake Brothers,” directed by Jan Prusinovsky (Czech Republic)

SPECIAL JURY MENTION
“The Magic Mountain,” directed by Anca Damian (Romania, France, Poland)

SPECIAL JURY MENTION
“Antonia,” directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino (Italy, Greece)

EAST OF THE WEST – COMPETITION
EAST OF THE WEST JURY
Gaby Babic, Germany
Alexis Grivas, Greece
Tomas Lunak, Czech Republic
Ivan I. Tverdovsky, Russia
Olena Yershova, Ukraine

EAST OF THE WEST AWARD
“The Wednesday Child,” directed by Lili Horvath (Hungary, Germany)

SPECIAL JURY MENTION
“The World Is Mine,” directed by Nicolae Constantin Tanase (Romania)

DOCUMENTARY FILMS – COMPETITION
DOCUMENTARY FILMS JURY
Paolo Bertolin, Italy
Teodora Ana Mihai, Romania
Ivana Pauerova Milosevic, Czech Republic

DOCUMENTARY FILM OVER 60 MINUTES
“Mallory,” directed by Helena Trestikova (Czech Republic)

SPECIAL JURY MENTION
“The Father Tapes,” directed by Albert Meisl (Austria)

DOCUMENTARY FILM UNDER 30 MINUTES
“White Death,” directed by Roberto Collio (Chile)

SPECIAL JURY MENTION
“Women in Sink,” directed by Iris Zaki (U.K., Israel)

FORUM OF INDEPENDENTS – COMPETITION
FORUM OF INDEPENDENTS JURY
Katrin Gebbe, Germany
Michael Malek, Czech Republic
Yeo Joon Han, Malaysia

FORUM OF INDEPENDENTS AWARD
“Tangerine,” directed by Sean Baker (U.S.)

AUDIENCE AWARD
“Youth,” directed by Paolo Sorrentino (Italy, France, Switzerland, U.K.)

CRYSTAL GLOBE FOR OUTSTANDING ARTISTIC CONTRIBUTION TO WORLD CINEMA
Richard Gere (U.S.)

FESTIVAL PRESIDENT’S AWARD FOR CONTRIBUTION TO CZECH CINEMATOGRAPHY
Iva Janzurova (Czech Republic)

NON-STATUTORY AWARDS
AWARD OF INTERNATIONAL FILM CRITICS (FIPRESCI)
“Box,” directed by Florin Serban (Romania, Germany, France)

THE ECUMENICAL JURY AWARD
“Bob and the Trees,” directed by Diego Ongaro (U.S.)

SPECIAL JURY MENTION
“Song of Songs,” directed by Eva Neymann (Ukraine)

FEDEORA AWARD
“Heavenly Nomadic,” directed by Mirlan Abdykalykov (Kyrgysztan)
“The Wednesday Child,” directed by Lili Horvath (Hungary, Germany)

EUROPA CINEMAS LABEL AWARD
For the best European film in the Official Selection, Competition, and in the East of the West, Competition.
“Babai,” directed by Visar Morina (Germany, Kosovo, Macedonia, France)

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