Presenting the Award Winners for the 20th Anniversary Edition of goEast - Festival of Central and Eastern European Film

    ROUNDS (Bulgaria/Serbia/France, 2019, directed by Stephan Komandarev) is the winner of the main prize of the 20th edition of goEast – Festival of Central and Eastern European Cinema in Wiesbaden, the Golden Lily. The international jury, chaired by Christoph Terhechte, explained its selection by commenting that the brilliantly made, multi-layered film “explores the inner world and personal fragilities of its characters, questioning their ethical or moral choices, their convictions, strength or capacity to take a stand while facing a radical choice”. “With the authenticity of its dialogue, excellent acting and remarkable cinematography the film succeeds in creating insightful human portraits, it blends together the personal and the universal, and grows into a reflection about the dark and bright side of human nature and its interconnection with a bigger world,” as the jury emphasised. 

    107 films from 40 countries, including a total of 21 German premieres, were all ready to go for the special anniversary edition of goEast – Festival of Central and Eastern European Film from 5 to 11 May 2020. Due to the unforeseeable limitations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the festival organisers developed a hybrid solution for this 20th anniversary edition, featuring online offerings and live events postponed to later dates throughout the second half of the year. The goal: to enable audiences to continue to experience Central and Eastern European cinema (culture) in spite of the crisis in Germany, or precisely because of it. 

    Karolis Kaupinis won the Award of the City of Wiesbaden for Best Director with his remarkable debut film NOVA LITUANIA (Lithuania, 2019). As the jury explained in its statement: “Shot in stunningly beautiful black and white in classic academy format, this film takes us back to a specific time and place, to the country of Lithuania in 1938, where worries about the impending war lead a solitary politician to think about plans for a ‘substitute Lithuania’ somewhere on a distant continent. Oscillating between grotesque moments and a feeling of melancholy reminiscence, the film makes the absurdity of its narrative universal, creating a surreal metaphor for defencelessness and vulnerability that resonates in times and places far beyond the film’s settings.” 

    The film IMMORTAL (Estonia/Latvia, 2019, directed by Ksenia Okhapkina) was honoured with the Award of the Federal Foreign Office for Cultural Diversity. The jury emphasised that the film presents the complex structures of existence in an environment charged with ideology in an atmospheric and cinematically powerful form. As the jury statement explained: “The film’s meticulously choreographed structure creates an image of a city, once a place of sorrow for many, but now an instrument to raise the obliging citizens of a state. The concrete state becomes an example for other occurrences around the world. The film’s perfectly composed images and sound design, and choice of colour place us into a simultaneously captivating and frightening world.” 

    The jury presented an Honourable Mention to IVANA THE TERRIBLE (Romania/Serbia, 2019, directed by Ivana Mladenović). The jury expressed the following praise for this charming hybrid mixture of fiction and documentary cinema: “The director of this film boldly implants herself at the centre of the narrative as an unlikeable, opinionated hypochondriac visiting home. She achieves a seemingly effortless realistic portrayal of her native Serbian village of Kladovo, surrounding herself with realistic performances by her own family members, friends, former lovers and local government officials. Personal is playfully political in this film, weaving questions about the future and the past of one’s place of birth as this confused millennial heroine ironically becomes a mascot of her village’s traditional summer festival celebrating Serbian-Romanian friendship. In the end, the film paints a compelling portrait of the millennial generation in the Balkans.” 

    Festival director Heleen Gerritsen expressed her satisfaction with a truly special jubilee anniversary edition of goEast: “For the first time, a portion of goEast took place online. A new experience! In our virtual Caligari, avatars even celebrated real parties. Our juries collaborated online this year: jury members from diverse time zones and countries like Belarus, Germany, France, Georgia, Great Britain, Israel, Latvia, Romania and the USA met online and presented the – at times symbolic – awards. Still, there’s nothing better than real cinema with real encounters. I hope we’ll meet in November at the real Caligari FilmBühne for the screenings of the 16 entries to the Competition.” 

    The International Film Critic’s Award from FIPRESCI in the category of fiction feature also went to ROUNDS (Bulgaria/Serbia/France, 2019, directed by Stephan Komandarev). As the jury shared in its statement: “The director’s criticism of his society gets its power from combining black humour, absurdity and sarcasm. When night falls in Bulgaria’s capital, the real talk begins. ROUNDS is a brutally honest yet elegantly built trip that caught our attention from the very start.” In the documentary film category, the jury chose STATE FUNERAL (Netherlands/Lithuania, 2019, directed by Sergei Loznitsa), commenting: “A fascinating documentary whose power is in its visuals no narration, no interviewers, no sophisticated directing but above all editing. Visuals and music combine to make Sergei Loznitsa’s STATE FUNERAL into an accessible piece of history. A peerless experience and a morbid time travel none of us will ever forget.” 

    Directors Jacek Naglowski and Patryk Jordanowicz were honoured with the Open Frame Award for virtual reality works, sponsored by BHF BANK Stiftung, for WHISPERS (Poland, 2019). The jury praised  WHISPERS as a “poetic exploration of healing and the ‘impenetrable forces of life and death’ in a time when the world is experiencing the extremity of these forces. (...) (E)very scene is a painting. A visual feast, from colours to composition – the cinematography is a feat of 360° immersive video.” The jury particularly commended the filmmakers’ care and tenderness toward the subject as well as the viewer. In their own words: “We were held. We had space to breathe. Congratulations to the filmmaker Jacek Nagłowski!” 

    The jury presented an Honourable Mention to BABYN YAR, VIRTUAL MEMORY (Ukraine, 2020) by Alona Stulii, praising the artist for careful and factual exploration and re-enactment in relating the tragic story of Babyn Yar in VR, adding: “Congratulations to director Alona Stulii, and producers Kirill Pokutnyy and Sergey Tereshchenko!” 

    The RhineMain Short Film Award, endowed by Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain, was presented this year for the second time. Following constructive discussion, the jury consisting of representatives of independent cinemas from the Rhine-Main region honoured the production IN BETWEEN (Kosovo, 2019, directed by Samir Karahoda), explicitly opting to highlight a brilliantly shot documentary. The jury explained its choice thusly: “The engaging composition of the images enables intense impressions for the viewer regarding architecture, history, family and individuals of the Kosovar culture while inviting the audience to engage in a discourse about traditional family structures and also about economic and social cohesion. Furthermore, the short documentary is fascinating as a whole and works to illustrate the narrative scenario with a meticulous closeness to its protagonists and their stories. The jury wants to point out the sense of a great scenario-concept for telling the story (...) extraordinary!” 

    The jury gave a Special Mention for VIRAGO (Estonia, 2019, directed by Kerli Kirch Schneider) as a fairy- tale-like plea for nearly perfect narrative cinema. In their own words: “VIRAGO impressed with its subtle, fresh tongue-in-cheek humour and its great magic. It is an outstanding contribution and perfect example for the art of short filmmaking and telling big fairy-tale stories with deep moral aspects.” 

    The 2020 Renovabis Research Grant for documentary film projects with a focus on human rights went to HOME IS WHERE THE FILMS ARE by More Raça. This year’s winning project underlines the fact that the right to imagination and culture is a human right. The jury explained their selection with the following statement: “We see this project as well as the award itself as a form of moral support for all cultural creators in these difficult times.” The winning project treats film screenings for children in refugee camps. As a child, the Kosovar director herself lived in such a camp in Macedonia, where she experienced personally the energy that film and culture can set free. The films that she saw there inspired her to become a filmmaker. Cinema became a home for her, in the midst of the chaos and misery of the camp. 

    SHUT THE FUCK UP! by Taisiia Kutuzova of Ukraine was honoured with the goEast Development Award as the best project in the scope of the East-West Talent Lab. “The most significant factor in our decision was the urgent relevance of the project as a mirror for our times and a signal of hope in the face of difficult societal conditions”, as the jury emphasised. A young protagonist exhibits civil courage in a small Ukrainian provincial town – by waging a solitary struggle against corruption. Though a local story, the project manages to encapsulate the state of an entire nation. Where functioning democratic structures still have to be established, political engagement of this variety can be life-threatening – and not only for the activist. “For this reason, we would like to honour the courage of the filmmaker, and her perseverance. May the prize fortify her resolve and enable her to continue her vital work”, as the jury wrote in its statement. 

    Every year since the beginning of the festival goEast media partner 3sat has offered to purchase broadcast rights for one film from the programme. For 2020, 3sat has selected the Competition film ZANA (Kosovo/Albania, 2019) by Antoneta Kastrati. The film is expected to celebrate its television premiere on 3sat in 2021. 

    The fate of the jubilee anniversary edition of goEast was initially uncertain due to the Covid-19 crisis. Thanks to the commitment of the festival organisers and support on the part of sponsors and funders, the festival was able to take place, and will now extend beyond the originally scheduled festival week. Thus, the awards ceremony does not represent the grand finale for goEast’s 20th edition, as the festival forges on, bringing Central and Eastern European films back where they belong: to the cinema. 

    From 24 to 27 July the goEast Symposium “Film Heritage in Transition” will take place in the cinema of DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut und Filmmuseum. In late summer, culture aficionados can look forward to an evening short-film walk, a shared meal outdoors and language courses in Mix Markt in the scope of the Pan-European Picnic. Finally, in the scope of November’s exground filmfest, the entire goEast Competition section will be screened for the public. Hosted at the lovely Caligari FilmBühne, the festival will once again be welcoming renowned film guests to Wiesbaden, among others including Stephan Komandarev (director of ROUNDS), Vlad Ivanov (lead actor in SERVANTS), Karolis Kaupinis (director of NOVA LITUANIA) and Ksenia Okhapkina (director of IMMORTAL). In the scope of the screenings, with the presentation of the goEast Audience Award the festival year’s last prize-winner will also be revealed. 

    Here is an overview of this year's prize-winners: 

    Golden Lily for Best Film ROUNDS / V KRAG, Bulgaria, Serbia/France, 2019, directed by Stephan Komandarev 

    Award of the City of Wiesbaden for Best Director NOVA LITUANIA, Lithuania, 2019, directed by Karolis Kaupinis 

    Award of the Federal Foreign Office for Cultural Diversity IMMORTAL / SUREMATU, Estonia/Lithuania, 2019, directed by Ksenia Okhapkina 

    Honourable Mention IVANA THE TERRIBLE / IVANA CEA GROAZNICĂ, Romania/Serbia 2019, directed by Ivana Mladenović 

    International Film Critic's Award – FIPRESCI (fiction feature) ROUNDS / V KRAG, Bulgaria/Serbia/France 2019, directed by Stephan Komandarev 

    International Film Critic's Award – FIPRESCI (documentary film) STATE FUNERAL / PROSHANIE SO STALINYM, Netherlands/Lithuania, 2019, directed by Sergei Loznitsa

    Open Frame Award WHISPERS, Poland, 2019, directed by Jacek Naglowski, Patryk Jordanowicz 

    Open Frame Award – Honourable Mention BABYN JAR, VIRTUAL MEMORY, Ukraine, 2020, directed by Alona Stulii 

    RhineMain Short Film Award IN BETWEEN / NË MES, Kosovo, 2019, directed by Samir Karahoda 

    RhineMain Short Film Award – Honourable Mention VIRAGO, Estonia, 2019, directed by Kerli Kirch Schneider 

    Renovabis Research Grant for documentary film projects with a human rights focus HOME IS WHERE THE FILMS ARE, Kosovo, directed by More Raça 

    goEast Development Award SHUT THE FUCK UP!, Ukraine, directed by Taisiia Kutuzova

    Last modified on 17-05-2020