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Films from Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia Clean Up at Cannes

A Kazakh actress and a Polish director win prestigious awards at the film festival; other films from region explore sensitive social issues.

21 May 2018

The 71st edition of the annual Cannes film festival ended this weekend. While the prestigious Palme d’Or went to the Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda for his family drama “Shoplifters,” six other prizes were carried off by representatives from the former Eastern Bloc.


The Russian production “Summer,” directed by Kirill Serebrennikov, won the prize for the best soundtrack. The black-and-white biographical film depicts the underground music scene of Leningrad in the 1980s, just before perestroika, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The main characters are the Soviet pop music legends Viktor Tsoi and Mike Naumenko. The role of Naumenko is played by contemporary Russian rock star Roma Zver, who also composed the prize-winning soundtrack together with German Osipov.


Serebrennikov had to finish his work on the film while under house arrest. He is suspected of embezzling state budget funds in the so-called Seventh Studio case. Despite appeals from the French authorities to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Serebrennikov was not allowed to leave Russia to attend the screening of his film in Cannes, Meduza writes.



Samal Yeslyamova from Kazakhstan was awarded the prize for best actress for her role in “Ayka” (My Little One). She plays the role of a young Kyrgyz girl, who is living and working illegally in Moscow when she gives birth to a child, whom she is unable to raise, as The Calvert Journal recaps. The film was directed by Kazakh filmmaker Sergey Dvortsevoy.


The award for best director went to Pole Pawel Pawlikowski for his “Cold War.” On the film festival’s official website, the black-and-white film is described as an “impossible love story in impossible times,” more precisely in the 1950s in Poland, Yugoslavia, Berlin, and Paris.


The Un Certain Regard category for innovative and daring works saw the award for best director go to Ukrainian Sergei Loznitsa, for his drama “Donbass,” which depicts the war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed separatists, RFE/RL writes.


“In the Donbass, war is called peace, propaganda is uttered as truth, and hatred is declared to be love … This is not a tale of one region, one country, or one political system. It is about a world, lost in post-truth and fake identities,” the official synopsis reads.  


Loznitsa could not attend the award ceremony in person but addressed the audience through a video message. He spoke in support of fellow Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who was convicted in Russia on charges of preparing terrorist attacks. Sentsov announced a hunger strike earlier this week, Echo Moskvy reports.  


Female Hungarian filmmaker Zsofia Szilagyi won the International Critics Prize for her debut film “One Day.” The film, financially supported by the Hungarian National Film Fund, shows the daily routine of a mother of three and the tensions in her family life, Daily News Hungary summarizes. Feminist film journal Another Gaze described it as “a study in the purgatory of motherhood.”


The short film “Kalendar” by Russian director Igor Poplauhin received the second prize in the Cinefondation category for film students. Poplauhin studies at the Moscow School of New Cinema. “At first glance she is just an ordinary woman. But every couple of months her normal life comes to a halt,” the mysterious synopsis of his film reads.

Compiled by Wasse Jonkhans

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