Festival reaching maturity

My Happiness captures ‘Listapad Gold’ while audiences appreciate The Brother

By Irina Svirko

Sergey Loznitsa’a My Happiness (Ukraine-Germany-Netherlands) represented Ukraine at the 17th Minsk International Film Festival — Listapad-2010, capturing the Grand Prix: ‘Listapad Gold’. It was chosen by the professional jury, headed by Lithuanian director Sarunas Bartas. My Happiness is Mr. Loznitsa’s feature film debut, although he has created many well-known documentaries. Born in Belarusian Baranovichi, he now lives in Germany and works regularly in Russia and Ukraine.

The film premiered this spring at the Cannes Festival, arousing interest, and discussions continued during the Listapad Festival. Belarusian audiences were ambiguous about the film, however, which explores the absurdities of life in a remote Russian province. The director stresses that the film’s themes are universal since they note the simple truth that those who are treated badly will seek revenge.

The ‘Listapad Gold’ is not Mr. Loznitsa’s first award, since he has already won the Grand Prix and a prize from the Russian Guild of Film Critics (at the Kinotavr Festival), alongside a prize for best script at Kinoshok, and the Grand Prix for best film at the International Festival of Young European Cinema — Voices, among others.

The People’s Choice Award went to The Brother (Venezuela), which also received a special prize ‘For Humanity and Spiritual Values in Cinematography’ — founded by the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.

This year, Listapad featured about 50 feature films, and documentaries, in addition to films shot by young directors. For the first time, it featured a red carpet, world level stars, a professional jury, well-known and discussed films and those showing a rather more intellectual bent. This was the 17th Listapad to be held but the first to stand shoulder to shoulder with the world’s most prestigious film festivals. It seems the Belarusian event plans to advance in this direction. According to Listapad’s Programme Director, Igor Sukmanov, it is vital ‘to leave behind amateur artistry and shift to a normal festival mechanism, as seen worldwide, entering a real festival medium’.

Next year, celebrating its 18th birthday, Listapad will achieve this maturity more confidently, in its newly discovered format, truly entering adulthood.

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