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‘Ága’ Wins Top Prize at Sarajevo Film Festival

The 24th Sarajevo Film Festival has awarded its top prize to Bulgarian director Milko Lazarov’s “Ága.” The Yakut-language movie, which saw its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February, tells the story of a troubled Inuit family.

“Ága” won the Heart of Sarajevo on Thursday night, the festival’s prize for best feature film, which includes a €16,000 ($18,200) award. The movie, a co-production between Bulgaria, Germany and France, was co-written by Lazarov and Simeon Ventsislavov.

“Ága” centers on an isolated Inuit couple who hold on to their traditions while global warming and the modern world encroach. When the wife’s health deteriorates, the husband decides to fulfill her last wish by embarking on a long journey to find their daughter, Ága, who deserted the couple long ago. Variety’s Jay Weissberg called the film a “handsome paean to a dying culture.”

For the second year running, the festival’s best director prize went to a Romanian filmmaker. Director Ioana Uricaru took home the award for her sophomore feature, “Lemonade,” which also made its debut in Berlin.

Hungarian actress Zsófia Szamosi won the best actress award for “One Day,” and the best actor prize went to Croatian Leon Lučev for “The Load.” Both titles saw their debuts in Cannes in May.

The festival’s jury was headed by two-time Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi and included Georgian writer-director Ana Urushadze, whose “Scary Mother” won the Heart of Sarajevo in 2017; Croatian actress Judita Franković Brdar; French photographer Brigitte Lacombe; and Mike Goodridge, artistic director of the International Film Festival & Awards Macao.

A special Honorary Heart of Sarajevo award was presented to Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

On Wednesday, the festival hosted a separate ceremony to announce the winner of the international casting director award, which went to Italian casting director Francesco Vedovati. It marked the first time Sarajevo has hosted the award, which was established in 2016 by the International Casting Directors Network and first presented at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. It is the only international award celebrating the best casting of a feature film. The ceremony was presided over by Sarajevo festival president Mirsad Purivatra.

Vedovati won for his work on Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” which premiered in competition in Cannes, where it picked up the best actor prize for Marcello Fonte. Vedovati beat out a list of 14 nominees, all from different countries, including those behind the casting of Robin Campillo’s “120 BPM,” William Oldroyd’s “Lady Macbeth,” Dean Devlin’s “Bad Samaritan” and Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.”

“This is very special, because it is an award given by colleagues,” said Vedovati. “It’s also very important to me, because, in the history of Sarajevo, I am the first casting director to receive an award for casting, so this will remain a part of history.”

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