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‘Ondog,’ ‘Invisible Life’ Top Spain’s 64th Valladolid Festival of Arthouse Cinema

VALLADOLID, Spain – The Valladolid Intl. Film Festival (Seminci), the truest event dedicated to international arthouse cinema on Spain’s festival calendar, capped off eight days of screenings, press conferences and roundtables by handing out awards on Saturday evening at the Spanish city’s historic Calderon Theater. The evening’s big winners: Wang Quan’an’s “Öndög” and Karim Aïnouz’s “Invisible Life.”

After premiering in competition at February’s Berlinale, Quan’an’s Mongolian dramedy “Öndög” has hit its stride eight months later scoring a best film award at last week’s Ghent Intl. Film Festival before repeating the feat at last night’s closing gala along with a best cinematography award for its Beijing-based French cinematographer Aymerick Pilarski.

Set on the seemingly endless planes of Mongolia, the film follows a rookie officer and a veteran shepard tasked with protecting a crime scene from harsh elements and harsher wolves. In her Variety review, Jessica Kiang heaped praise on the picture, saying the loosely reality-based film as “the kind of cinema that makes its stories true in the telling of them.”

While “Öndög” scooped top honors, it was Aïnouz’s Cannes’ Un Certain Regard Award winner “Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão” that left Valladolid with the most hardware: Best film runner up, two best actress awards for its shared leads; and the Fipresci film critics prize and Sociograph prize for competition film which made the largest impact on the public.

A tale of two sisters – one a rebellious daughter, the other a gifted pianist – who struggle for self-realization in the male-dominant world of 1950’s Brazil, knit with a telling present-day coda, “Invisible Life” is “a nourishing melodrama elevated by Karim Aïnouz’s singular, saturated directorial style,” according to Guy Lodge’s Variety review.

Rúnar Rúnarsson, one of a rising generation of young filmmakers in Iceland, was chosen as the festival’s best director for his lastest “Echo,” a collection of 56 unique Christmas-themed scenes from across Iceland, which won the youth jury award at this year’s Locarno Festival, where it played in the main competition.

Cannes favorites Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne proved double-winners on Saturday evening when “Young Ahmed” received both the best screenplay and best editing awards. Another 2019 Cannes winner, where the brothers shared best director, “Young Ahmed” tracks a teenaged student who plots to kill his teacher after embracing an extremist interpretation of the Quran.

Mounia Meddour was selected best new director in competition at this year’s festival for her fiction feature debut “Papicha,” previously an Un Certain Regard player at Cannes. The film, turning on an anti-authoritarian fashion show held in an oppressive 1997 Algiers, also took Seminci’s public prize.

Levan Gelbakhiani capped a hat trick of best actor awards, having previously received trophies in Odessa and Sarajevo, for his portrayal of Merab, a professional dancer confronted by a new rival and object of desire in Levan Akin’s “And Then we Danced,” which also won the Rainbow Spike for best film.

This year’s international jury included legendary director Josefina Molina, Spain’s National Cinematography Prize winner this year;

ever more-recognized Canadian director Philippe Lesage, whose third feature “Genesis” won last year’s best picture award at Seminci; Indian filmmaker Dilip Mehta whose 2008 feature “The Forgotten Woman” was nominated for a Hollywood Film Award for best documentary; Georgian director Keti Machavariani; top Spanish journalist and novelist Rosa Montero; French producer and photographer Thierry Forte; and  Iván Giroud,, director of Havana’s International Festival of New Latin American Cinema.

After the awards were handed out, the Calderon Theater hosted a screening of the Finnish-Chinese co-production “Mestari Cheng,” as a final tribute to China, this year’s country of honor. Throughout the week, the Seminci screened Chinese films from the past decade as part of this year’s Breaking Barriers sidebar dedicated to promoting cinema from other territories.

2019 SEMINCI AWARD WINNERS

GOLDEN SPIKE BEST FILM

“Öndög,” (Wang Quan’an, Mongolia)

SILVER SPIKE BEST FILM

“Invisible Life,” (Karim Aïnouz, Brazil, Germany)

JURY SPECIAL MENTION

“Let There Be Light,” (Marko Skop, Slovakia, Czech Republic)

RIBERA DEL DUERO BEST DIRECTOR

Rúnar Rúnarsson, (“Echo,” Iceland)

BEST ACTRESS

Carol Duarte, Julia Stockler, (“Invisible Life”)

BEST ACTOR

Levan Gelbakhiani, (“And Then We Danced,” Georgia, Sweden, France)

PILAR MIRÓ BEST NEW DIRECTOR

Mounia Meddour, (“Papicha,” France, Algeria, Belgium, Qatar)

MIGUEL DELIBES BEST SCREENPLAY

“Young Ahmed,” (Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Belgium, France)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Aymerick Pilarski, (“Öndög,” Mongolia)

BEST EDITING

“Young Ahmed”

PUBLIC PRIZE

“Papicha,” (Mounia Meddour, France, Algeria, Belgium, Qatar)

FIPRESCI

“Invisible Life”

RAINBOW SPIKE

“And Then We Danced,” (Levan Akin, Georgia, Sweden, France)

SGAE FOUNDATION PRIZE

“A Thief’s Daughter,” (Belén Funes, Spain)

YOUTH PRIZE

“The Farewell,” (Lulu Wang, U.S.A.)

MEETING POINT PRIZE

“The Unknown Saint,” (Alaa Eddine Aljem, Morocco, France, Qatar)

GOLDEN BLOG PRIZE

“Out in the Open,” (Benito Zambrano, Portugal, Spain)

SOCIOGRAPH PRIZE

“Invisible Life”

GREEN SPIKE

“Honeyland,” (Ljubo Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska, Republic of Macedonia)

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