Visar Morina’s ‘Exile’ Wins Top Prize at Sarajevo Film Festival

Visar Morina’s “Exile,” a tense psychodrama about a Kosovan pharmacologist in Germany who becomes increasingly paranoid over a series of menacing events, won the top prize at the Sarajevo Film Festival, earning the Kosovo-born German director the Heart of Sarajevo.

The award ceremony took place online Thursday night, with Morina winning top honors from a jury led by Academy Award-winning director Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”) and comprised of Carlo Chatrian, artistic director of the Berlin Intl. Film Festival; Croatian actress Jadranka Đokić; Serbian director Srdan Golubović; and Andrea Stavenhagen, head of industry and training projects at the Morelia Film Festival.

Director Michel Franco (“Chronic,” “Las Hijas de Abril”) and actor Mads Mikkelsen (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Dr. Strange”) were given honorary Heart of Sarajevo awards.

The timely drama from Morina, who was named one of Variety‘s 10 Europeans to Watch earlier this year, is a poignant study of identity and belonging at a time of ongoing uncertainty in Europe over the plight of millions of refugees. “If we talk about immigrants in Germany…it’s a huge thing right now because there are people making politics and getting power on the back of [this issue],” the director told Variety earlier this week. “So in a way, I feel have a responsibility to deal with this subject.”

The award for best director went to Azerbaijan’s Ru Hasanov for “The Island Within,” the story of a reluctant chess grandmaster who flees to a remote island on the eve of a world championship showdown. Best actress went to Marija Škaričić for her performance in Swiss director Andrea Štaka’s “Mare.” Best actor was awarded to Vangelis Mourikis for the lead role in “Digger,” from Greek director Georgis Grigorakis. The best short film went to Croatia’s Tin Žanić, for “Antiotpad,” with a special jury mention for “In Her Steps,” from Greek filmmaker Anastasia Kratidi.

Best documentary honors went to “Merry Christmas, Yiwu,” from Serbian director Mladen Kovačević. The special jury award went to Romania’s Andrei Dăscălescu, for “Holy Father.” “Acasă, My Home,” by Romanian director Radu Ciorniciuc, took home the human rights award.

The award for best student film went to “The Great Istanbul Depression,” from Turkey’s Zeynep Dilan Süren. The Audentia Award was given to Russian filmmaker Natalija Yefimkina for “Garage People.”

The Sarajevo Festival’s industry arm, CineLink Industry Days, also handed out its awards Thursday night. In the Co-Production Market, which this year featured 18 feature-film projects in development or production from Southeast Europe and the surrounding region, the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award went to “The Otter,” from Serbia’s Srđan Vuletić. Fellow Serbian director Andrijana Stojković won the Film Center Montenegro Cinelink Award for “Spite.” The Film Center Serbia Cinelink Award went to Ana Urushadze, of Georgia, for “Supporting Role.”

Turkish director Melisa Önel won the Artekino International Prize for “Suddenly,” while Greece’s Vasilis Chrysanthopoulos won the EAVE+ Award for “The Gospel According to Kimon.”

In the Cinelink Work in Progress section, which featured closed screenings of nine feature-length fiction and documentary films in production or post-production from Southeast Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, Kazakhstan’s Adilkhan Yerzhanov won the Turkish National Radio Television Award for “Ulbolsyn.” Kaltrina Krasniqi, of Kosovo, won the Post Republic Award for “Vera Dreams of the Sea.” The Cinelink Iridium Award went to “Moon 66 Questions,” by Greece’s Jacqueline Lentzou.

Finally, the CineLink Drama TV strand presented the Croatian Audiovisual Center Drama Award to “Black Delta,” from the Romanian father-daughter duo Dragos Bucur and Sofia Bucur. The TV Drama Vision Pitch Award went to “Abyss,” by North Macedonia’s Marjan Alčevski.

Earlier in the day, the Docu Talent Award, presented by the Ji.hlava Intl. Documentary Film Festival to the most promising Central and Eastern European documentary project, went to “Elevation,” by Ukrainian director Max Rud.

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