Valentina Maurel’s “I Have Electric Dreams” continued its winning streak this week at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, where the Costa Rican director’s coming-of-age drama took home the Golden Alexander for best feature film.
Maurel’s debut follows a restless 16-year-old girl experiencing her sexual awakening. Desperate to leave the house she shares with her mother and younger sister, she opts to move in with her estranged father, a troubled artist.
The film won the prizes for best director, actress and actor at the Locarno Film Festival, where it bowed in the main competition, as well as the San Sebastián Film Festival’s Horizons Award.
The jury in Thessaloniki, which was comprised of Mexican producer and Pimienta Films founder Nicolas Selis, Polish writer-director Tomasz Wasilewski and Greek filmmaker Penny Panagiotopoulou, praised the film for its “beautiful and gentle portrait on how to love the flaws in a person you love.” Leading man Reinaldo Amien Gutiérrez also won the award for best actor.
The Silver Alexander Special Jury Award went to Michael Koch’s “A Piece of Sky,” the Swiss director’s Alpine tragedy about a family in a remote mountain village that comes undone by medical misfortune and psychological upheaval. The film, Koch’s second, premiered in competition at the Berlin Film Festival.
Hayakawa Chie took home the Bronze Alexander for best director for the dystopian drama “Plan 75,” which world premiered in the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section. Set in the near future in Japan, it tells the story of the titular government program that encourages senior citizens to be voluntarily euthanized in order to remedy the aging society. The film also won the FIPRESCI Prize from the International Federation of Film Critics.
Rosy McEwen won the best actress award for her performance as a lesbian teacher who confronts systemic homophobia in U.K. writer-director Georgia Oakley’s feature debut, “Blue Jean.” The film premiered in the Venice Days sidebar at the Venice Film Festival.
The award for best artistic achievement went to “The Dam,” the directorial debut of Lebanese filmmaker Ali Cherri, which bowed in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar at Cannes. Martijn de Jong’s “Narcosis,” the Dutch Oscar entry this year, also received a special mention.
The Meet the Neighbors competition, which showcases the first and second features by directors from the wider region of Southeastern Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, gave its top prize to “Klondike,” Maryna Er Gorbach’s searing portrayal of war in Ukraine’s Donbass region.
The country’s Oscar submission has racked up a slew of awards since earning Er Gorbach best director honors in the World Cinema Dramatic competition at Sundance, including best director at Sarajevo and best international film at Chile’s 18th Santiago International Film Festival (Sanfic).
Describing it as a “shattering cinematic experience, which takes one into the very heart of darkness of war and its consequences,” the jury praised a film that “keys on one woman’s plight into the madness that surrounds her and her attempts to remain human among the devastation.”
Michael Vinik’s “Valeria Is Getting Married” was awarded the Silver Alexander in Meet the Neighbors, following its world premiere in Venice’s Horizons Extra section, and a North American premiere in Toronto. Greek director Asimina Proedrou was given a special mention in the category for her feature debut “Behind the Haystacks.”
In the Film Forward competition section showcasing innovative filmmaking, the Golden Alexander went to “Retreat,” by Swiss director Leon Schwitter, with Greek filmmaker Nikos Bastras taking home the Silver Alexander for “Bastards.”