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Migration drama “As Far as I Can Walk,” directed by Stefan Arsenijevic, won the top prize at the 55th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on Saturday, commended by the critics for its nuanced portrayal of the realities of refugees’ lives.

The joint Serbia/France/Luxembourg/Bulgaria/Lithuania production, starring Ibrahim Koma and Nancy Mensah-Offei and inspired by a Serbian medieval epic poem, also won the $25,000 Crystal Globe prize, best actor award for Koma, special jury mention for its lyrical cinematography by Jelena Stankovic, the Ecumenical Jury award and the Europa Cinemas Label jury prize.

“I want to make a hundred movies with you,” Koma told the Hotel Thermal gala audience, praising Arsenijevic as a director who can “see everything” in an actor.

The gala at the signature 1970s structure rounded out a fest edition somewhat subdued as COVID restrictions on travel limited the usual number of foreign guests and rain fell throughout the week while more than 9,000 fans attended screenings of 144 films, a number markedly down from the usual assortment.

Moods were upbeat, however, at the return of the fest in fully live form, a high point on the Central Europe film calendar, as it bounced back after a dark year caused by pandemic outbreaks in 2020. Crowds also cheered the appearance of president’s award winner Ethan Hawke and feted local Oscar winner Jan Sverak with a prize for contribution to Czech cinematography.

Hawke, donning two-tone loafers called “cool shoes – really” by the ceremony moderator, told the audience he had been prepped for Karlovy Vary by his colleague Richard Linklater, the Texas filmmaker honored in here in 2018. He told Hawke “there’s a tremendous love of cinema – ignore the Maseratis and the Ferraris and pay attention to the audiences.”

The special jury prize and $15,000 went to director Erika Hnikova for her docu on parents uniquely dedicated to developing their son, “Every Single Minute,” a Czech/Slovak co-production.

Dietrich Bruggemann won the director prize for German film “Nö,” an episodic look at 30-somethings and their struggle for happiness, while the actress prize went to Éléonore Loiselle for her role as a determined recruit in the Canadian drama “Wars” by Nicolas Roy.

The Crystal Globe jury also honored Croatian school drama “The Staffroom” directed by Sonja Tarokic with a special mention, as did the Ecumenical Jury, while Vinette Robinson won special mention for her role in the UK film “Boiling Point,” which centers on a high-pressure, high-end restaurant kitchen, using roving cameras to suspenseful effect.

The Pravo audience award went to the ambitious Czech/Slovak biopic “Zatopek” directed by David Ondricek about the legendary communist-era runner who won Olympic gold but found himself ensnared in the Cold War politics or the 1950s.

The fest’s East of the West competition, focused on work from the former East Bloc, the Mediterranean and North Africa, honored Russian film “Nuuccha” directed by Vladimir Munkuev with its top prize and $15,000. The story of Yakut villagers whose home life is invaded by state orders, earned critical buzz throughout the week at screenings in the western Czech spa town.

“Sisterhood,” a North Macedonia/Kosovo/Montenegro film directed by Dina Duma, won special mention and $10,000 while the Czech docu “Intensive Life Unit” directed by Adela Komrzy, won special mention.

Meanwhile, Shawkat Amin Korki’s Iraqi/German/Qatar drama “The Exam,” centered on the social pressures a young woman faces if she fails to win a university place, won the FIPRESCI prize, awarded in memory of Jan Foll, an “unmistakable persona of Czech film criticism” who died this year.

The FEDEORA panel, the jury of the European the Mediterranean critics association, awarded its prize for top film from the East of the West competition to “Otar’s Death,” a “well-crafted drama with a multilayered narrative about two families brought together by a misfortunate event” from Georgia/Germany/Lithuania directed by Ioseb “Soso” Bliadze.

The jury of the European and Mediterranean Critics Association gave a special mention to “Intensive Life Unit,” writing it “bravely tackles the sensitive topic of palliative care, opening up conversations about death being a part of life.”

See the full winners list below.

 

Crystal Globe Grand Prize

“As Far as I Can Walk”

Directed by Stefan Arsenijevic

Serbia, France, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Lithuania

 

Special jury prize

“Every Single Minute”

Directed by Erika Hníkova

Czech Republic, Slovakia

 

Director

Dietrich Brüggemann, “Nö”

Germany

 

Actress

Éléonore Loiselle, “Wars”

Canada

 

Actor

Ibrahim Koma, “As Far as I Can Walk”

 

Special jury mentions

Vinette Robinson, “Boiling Point”

United Kingdom

Jelena Stankovic, “As Far as I Can Walk”

 

Pravo audience award

“Zatopek”

Directed by David Ondricek

Czech Republic, Slovakia

 

East of the West grand prize

“Nuuccha”

Directed by Vladimir Munkuev

Russia

Special mention

“Intensive Life Unit”

Directed by Adela Komrzy

Czech Republic