South East European Film Festival, SEE Fest 2011 concluded Monday night in Los Angeles with the screening of the Austrian documentary that explores the roots of the famed Balkan Gypsy music, “GYPSY SPIRIT: HARRI STOJKA, A JOURNEY” directed by Klaus Hundsbichler.
The big winner of this year’s festival was Romanian MEDAL OF HONOR directed by Calin Peter Netzer, which won Cinema Without Borders award for Best Feature Film. The jury members Bijan Tehrani, editor in chief, James Ulmer, international editor, and Turkish director Atil Inac who won this award last year, gave the overall top score to the Romanian film. Consul General of Romania the Hon. Catalin Ghenea accepted the award on behalf of the filmmaker. At the ceremony held at the UCLA Bridges Theatre the same jury awarded an Honorable Mention to the Macedonian-Swiss co-production THE WAR IS OVER, directed by Mitko Panov, about the Kosovo war of 1999 as seen by an Albanian refugee in Switzerland whose longing for the ancestral lands and heritage informs the film. Line producer Hans-Martin Liebing accepted the award on behalf of director Panov.
Best Documentary Film Award for young Italian filmmaker of Bosnian-Romani origin, Laura Halilovic and ME MY GYPSY FAMILY AND WOODY ALLEN
Three members of the documentary jury, Oscar-winning filmmaker (for “Genocide”, in 1981) Arnold Schwartzman; renowned Hungarian filmmaker and professor at UCLA Film School Gyula Gazdag, and long time head of programming at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles Margit Kleinman unanimously awarded Laura Halilovic for her inspired, well-rounded, charming documentary. She was only 19 when she made the film two years ago, and the jury noted that she is a major talent to watch.
“Medal of Honor” and “Apnea” share Audience Award
Audience vote went to two films, tied with the highest voting score: once again it was the Romanian feature “Medal of Honor”, a lyrical and deeply humanistic film about an aging man who is suddenly thrust into the neighborhood spotlight when he receives a medal for WWII bravery which he cannot recall; and Greek bittersweet drama of two young people drawn apart by their incompatible commitments, “Apnea” by Ari Bafalouka, about a competitive swimmer and an environmental activist. Producer Ron Yerxa, who was also Honorary Chair of the SEE FEST business conference, presented the award.
SEE Fest Filmmakers Circle’s Best First Feature Film Award goes to Bulgarian “SHELTER” directed by Dragomir Sholev
Five jury members from the SEE Fest’s Filmmakers Circle, Elizabeth Henderson, Jelena Erceg, Valentina Ganeva, Aldo Shllaku and Rich Sturdevant gave the Award for Best First Feature Film to ”Shelter” by first-time feature director Dragomir Sholev. Jury member Valentina Ganeva, Bulgarian expat who works in Hollywood, presented the award.
SEE Fest Business Conference
Earlier in the day SEE Fest held a Business Conference sponsored by UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies, and UCLA Anderson/ CIBER, and co-sponsored by Women in Film International Committee. Hollywood producers Ron Yerxa and Andrew Pfeffer were joined by Patricia Mayer, entertainment attorney, and Nesim Hason, producer and distributor with ties to the region. Second panel with new media experts Katharine Cook and Cheryl Brooks, and distributors Freyr Thor and Orly Ravid engaged the audience in a productive discussion about working in South East Europe, and new distribution platforms for independent and foreign language films.
SEE FEST sponsors and supporters include the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles and UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies; followed by ELMA, European Languages and Movies in America, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, DK Art Publishing, Dan Tana’s Restaurant, Romanian Cultural Institute in New York, UCLA Anderson Center for International Business Education and Research, Women in Film International Committee, Cinema Without Borders and Latino Weekly, Eurochannel, KPFK 90.7FM, and consulates general of Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Turkey, Romania, as well as Croatia, Bulgaria, and Greece. The festival also enjoys broad support from community-based groups and cultural organizations in California, as well as film companies, distributors and sales agents in Europe. SEE FEST cadre of volunteers, including students, film fans, researchers, designers, social media coordinators, and event production crews function on a year-round basis.