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‘The Heiresses’ Scores Top Transilvania Film Festival Prize

Marcelo Martinessi’s “The Heiresses,” a Paraguayan-set story of sisterhood and entrapment, won the Transilvania Intl. Film Festival’s top prize Saturday, capping a week of honoring “films that dare,” in the words of its artistic chief Mihai Chirilov.

Crowds filled the ornate, 19th-century national theater in Cluj for the awards gala simulcast Saturday, marking the close of Romania’s top international art film fest, which this year focused on presenting fresh perspectives and provocative work in half a dozen sections, along with industry tech workshops, sessions on micro-budget filmmaking and popular screenings of archival films, often with live orchestral accompaniment.

The awards gala honored Hlynur Palmason with the director prize for Icelandic-Danish sibling rivalry story “Winter Brothers” while all three actors from U.K.-Spanish fertility triangle tale “Anchor and Hope,” Natalia Tena, Oona Chaplin and David Verdaguer, shared the best performance prize.

Asghar Yousefinejad’s “The Home,” an Iranian study of grief and tradition, and Anna Kruglova’s Russian-Belorussian-German family drama “Scythe Hitting Stone,” meanwhile, won special jury awards.

TIFF audiences voted Danish police thriller “The Guilty” by Gustav Möller as their favorite fest film while Ruth Mader’s Austrian sci-fi “Life Guidance” won the Fipresci prize under the section’s theme this year of “To be or not to be politically correct.”

The fest’s signature Romanian Days section, celebrating a wide range of native film styles and subjects, often created in partnership with producers from around Europe, won over audiences as directors continue to push the boundaries of the country’s grim, gritty New Wave style of the last decade.

Romanian Days audience award-winner “One Step Behind the Seraphim,” an indictment of religion school hypocrisy, written and directed by Daniel Sandu, and boxing drama “Caisa,” directed by Alexandru Mavrodineanu, both offer fresh air into the national filmmaking quest.

The section’s best feature prize, along with 10,000 euros ($11,700) in post-production services with Cinelabs Romania went to “Pororoca” by Constantin Popescu, a Romanian-French missing child drama.

The section’s debut award went to Romanian-Serbian-Belgian relationship tale “Soldiers: Story From Ferentari” by Ivana Mladenovic, while Adina Pintilie’s “Touch Me Not,” the intimacy study that took the Berlinale Golden Bear this year, scored the Romanian Days special jury mention.

Tributes to career performers honored for lifetime achievement drew masses of fans throughout the fest with French actress-director Fanny Ardant and her Romanian counterpart, Anna Szeles, star of dozens of 1970s adventures and dramas, each winning the honor. The latter was praised Saturday on the theater’s stage by actor and raconteur Florin Piersic in a rambling speech that often brought down the house as it veered off course.

Veteran romance actor Dan Nutu took home the fest’s Excellence Award, offered by Mercedes-Benz, for his extensive career turns, often portraying tough heroes who prefer action to words.

Short films, increasingly drawing critical and industry attention, took up significant slates at the Transilvania fest, with Romanian Days best short honors going to “Christmas Present” by Bogdan Muresanu while the section’s short jury special mention went to “Michelangelo” by Anghel Damian and “Sunday” by Dorian Boguta.

The Shadow Shorts section, praising a remarkably diverse collection of horror work, honored “Something in the Darkness,” a chilling look at a child’s perceptions of terror by Spain’s Fran Casanova.

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