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CINÉAST 2023 Awards

Citizen Saint and Blaga’s Lessons shine bright at CinÉast

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- Tinatin Kajrishvili’s latest effort has scooped the Grand Prix, while the social thriller helmed by Stephan Komandarev took home two awards

Citizen Saint and Blaga’s Lessons shine bright at CinÉast
The press jury presenting the Critics’ Prize to Blaga’s Lessons by Stephan Komandarev (© Kirill Veprikov)

After a run of more than two weeks, the 16th edition of CinÉast (5-22 October) came to an end with an awards ceremony held at Kinepolis Kirchberg in Luxembourg City. The festival’s main themes were adaptation and inclusion – a common denominator woven into all seven competition films as well as the other movies, whether they were about adapting to health issues, to a new chapter in life or to becoming an inclusive family.

The international jury was led by French director Patrice Leconte (Maigret [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
), who gave a master class during the festival, and also consisted of filmmakers Iryna Tsilyk (The Earth Is Blue as an Orange [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Iryna Tsilyk
film profile
]
) and Andrija Mardešić (On the Border, The Uncle [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Andrija Mardešić and David …
film profile
]
), actress Sophie Langevin (Shadow of the Vampire) and Luxembourgish producer Vincent Quénault (The Perfumed Hill).

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The jurors awarded the Grand Prix to Tinatin Kajrishvili’s daring Citizen Saint [+see also:
film review
interview: Tinatin Kajrishvili
film profile
]
, a Georgian-French-Bulgarian co-production. The surreal black-and-white feature about a saint thought to have come back from the dead received praise for its originality and unique visual atmosphere: “An incredible story of great originality, about false idols. The mise-en-scène and cinematography unanimously amazed the jury. A totally accomplished film with elements of magical realism, shifting from humour to terror.”

The other big winner was Stephan Komandarev's social thriller Blaga’s Lessons [+see also:
film review
interview: Stephan Komandarev
film profile
]
, which follows an elderly lady (portrayed by Eli Skorcheva), who, after falling victim to a phone scam, has nothing left to lose and ends up on the wrong path. The film struck a chord with the press jury and the international jury alike. It thus took home the Critics’ Prize and the Special Jury Prize.

The press jury (consisting of Tómas Atli Einarsson, Isabelle Debuchy and Cineuropa’s own Katrin Büchler) also gave a Special Mention to the documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Anna Hints
film profile
]
by Anna Hints (which is, furthermore, a contender for this year’s LUX Audience Award), highlighting its place in a broader discourse about women’s position in society and building a bridge to Blaga’s Lessons: if Blaga had had a smoke sauna sisterhood of her own, she might have fared better.

Four further films unspooled in the Official Competition: A Cup of Coffee and New Shoes On [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Gentian Koçi
film profile
]
by Gentian Koçi, about deaf-mute twin brothers learning that they will also lose their eyesight; Bread and Salt [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Damian Kocur
film profile
]
by Damian Kocur, a drama centred on a young pianist ending up in xenophobic circles; Housekeeping for Beginners [+see also:
film review
interview: Goran Stolevski, Alina Serban
film profile
]
by Goran Stolevski, about what it means to be a family against all odds; and Stepne [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Maryna Vroda, hinging on a Ukrainian man returning home to take care of his dying mother.

The Young Talents Award, handed out by a jury of film students, went to the film Larry by Szilárd Bernáth, about a young man resorting to hip-hop to overcome his stuttering. Linda Olte’s Sisters [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, a drama shining a light on the harsh realities of international adoptions, was the public’s favourite and consequently received the Audience Award for Best Feature Film.

At the end of the awards ceremony, Radek Lipka, CinÉast’s festival director, announced the creation of the new Eastern European Film Festival Network, together with the BEAST International Film Festival (Porto, Portugal), EU Youth Cinema: Green Deal (several events in Austria and Eastern Europe), the Eastern Neighbours Film Festival (The Hague, Netherlands) and the Go East Film Festival (Wiesbaden, Germany).

Here is the full list of award winners:

Feature Competition

Grand Prix
Citizen Saint [+see also:
film review
interview: Tinatin Kajrishvili
film profile
]
– Tinatin Kajrishvili (Georgia/France/Bulgaria)

Special Jury Prize
Blaga’s Lessons [+see also:
film review
interview: Stephan Komandarev
film profile
]
– Stephan Komandarev (Bulgaria/Germany)

Critics’ Prize
Blaga’s Lessons – Stephan Komandarev
Special Mention of the Press Jury
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Anna Hints
film profile
]
– Anna Hints (Estonia/France/Iceland)

Young Talents Competition

Young Talents Award
Larry – Szilárd Bernáth (Hungary)

Audience Awards

Audience Award for Best Feature Film
Sisters [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
– Linda Olte (Latvia/Italy)

Audience Award for Best Short Fiction Film
Island of Freedom – Petr Januschka (Czech Republic)

Audience Award for Best Short Documentary Film
The Silence of the Banana Trees – Eneos Çarka (Hungary/Belgium/Portugal/Albania)

Audience Award for Best Short Animated Film
Crab – Piotr Chmielewski (Poland)

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