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Alejandro Landes’ ‘Monos’ Wins Top Prize at Transilvania Film Festival

CLUJ, Romania–Alejandro Landes’ “Monos,” a survival thriller about a group of rebels set deep in the jungles of Colombia, won the top prize at the Transilvanian Intl. Film Festival on Saturday, with the jury praising the Sundance player “for its hypnotic power through its minimalist storytelling, committed cast, and unsentimental portrait of young people with guns.”

After a week of heavy rains in Cluj that swept across the cobbled streets of its historic city center and disrupted countless open-air screenings, a palpable air of relief seemed to settle over the red carpet Saturday evening, as guests climbed the steps of the National Theater at twilight accompanied by the strains of a string quartet.

Looking back at a week of screenings that continued the festival’s tradition of pushing the envelope with bold and provocative programming, TIFF artistic director Mihai Chirilov described from the podium the “experiment” behind the official selection for the festival’s 18th edition.

“I wanted to have an experiment. I think it was a good experience and a good experiment,” he said. “There were 12 movies from very different backgrounds. What are we talking about when we are not talking about politics? Sometimes we need to remember other things, like cinema. We have 12 films without politics, but with human relationships, that were very strong cinematic films.”

The award for best director went to Denmark’s May el-Toukhy for “Queen of Hearts,” a riveting drama about a married woman who initiates a reckless affair with her troubled teenage stepson. The jury special prize went to “A Faithful Man,” Louis Garrel’s lighthearted drama about a Parisian journalist (played by Garrel) who gets entangled in a messy love triangle after setting off to win back his ex-girlfriend.

One year after Hlynur Palmason walked off with the director prize in Transilvania for “Winter Brothers,” leading man Ingvar Sigurosson won the best performance award for Palmason’s “A White, White Day,” after winning best actor honors at Cannes Critics’ Week, where the film world premiered.

Polish director Wojciech Smarzowski took home this year’s Fipresci award for “Clergy,” his surprise box-office hit about three clergymen who meet to celebrate their survival on the anniversary of a tragic, life-changing event. The Transilvania Audience Award went to “System Crasher,” German director Nora Fingscheidt’s story of a troubled 9-year-old with psychotic episodes who’s failed by the child welfare system.

With this year’s edition of the Romanian Days section again celebrating the achievements of the local industry, Andrei Cohn took home the top prize for “Arrest,” his harrowing prison-cell drama about a man who faces a brutal inquisition from a small-time crook turned police collaborator. The Romanian debut film award went to “Monsters.”, Marius Olteanu’s accomplished drama about a forty-something couple forced to decide if it’s time to let go after years of marriage.

A special jury mention was also given to Nora Agapi’s “Timebox,” a documentary about an elderly filmmaker and movie collector who’s faced with eviction.

CREDIT: Marius Maris

The Romanian Days audience award went to “Moromete Family: On the Edge of Time,” Stere Gulea’s crowd-pleasing follow-up to a film about peasant life on the eve of the WWII that won Romanian hearts 30 years ago. The short film award was given to “Opinions,” by Anton Groves and Damian Groves.

In the Shadow Shorts section, a popular sidebar for horror and sci-fi short films, the top prize went to “The Wheel,” directed by Carlos Baena. A special mention was given to “Corbii,” by Tom de Ville.

With a strong industry program designed to bolster co-productions for both the host country and its neighbors across the region, the Transilvania Pitch Stop handed out awards to several promising projects that took part in its co-production platform this week.

The Eurimages Co-production Development Award was given to “Democracy Work in Progress,” a black comedy from Hungarian director Mihály Schwechtjeand producer Genověva Petrovits about a driving instructor whose life is turned upside down when a student refuses to bribe him for her license.

A special mention was given to “Athletes,” the story of a young and ambitious long jumper whose pursuit of success at any cost forces a crisis of conscience, directed by Turkey’s Semih Gulen and Mustafa Emin Buyukcoskun, and produced by Oyku Kanli and Arda Ciltepe

A prize for post-production services from Romanian post house Chainsaw Europe was awarded to “Between Two Dawns,” directed by Turkey’s Selman Nacar and produced by Burak Çevik, about a man who’s forced to make a difficult moral choice after an employee of his family business is severely injured on the job.

A prize offered with the support of the National Center for Cinematography was given to “Spas,” directed by Ukraine’s Maksym Nakonechnyi and produced by Yelizaveta Smith, about a female soldier who’s impregnated after being raped in captivity on the frontlines.

The closing gala also celebrated two veterans of the Romanian industry, with long-time costume designer Oana Păunescu receiving a life-time achievement award, while film and stage star Marcel Iureș received the Excellence Award in recognition of his long and celebrated career. Earlier in the week, the fest feted Nicolas Cage with the Transilvanian Trophy for Special Contribution to World Cinema.

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