50th TIFF: Balkan Fund Awards 2009


Balkan Fund’s three-day workshop, organized in the framework of TIFF, was concluded on Monday, November 16, with the award ceremony at Stavros Tornes Theater.

The Fund for the Development of scripts from Balkan countries continues its successful work for a seventh consecutive year.

This year’s Balkan Fund jury consiste of:

Lenny Crooks, head of the UK’s New Cinema Fund, UK Council

Richard Kuuietniowski, scriptwriter and filmmaker

Razvan Radulescu, scriptwriter and filmmaker

Christina Kallas – Kalogeropoulou, scriptwriter, producer and president of the European Federation of Scriptwriters, Balkan Fund’s artistic director.

The three script projects awarded in this year’s Balkan Fund were:

Orange gardens: director / screenwriter Ozkan Kucuk, producer Suncem Kocer, distributor: Mesopotamia Cinema Collective & Yapim 13 (Turkey)
Mother of asphalt: director/screenwriter Dalibor Matanic, producer Ankica Juric Tilic, distributor: Kinorama (Croatia) CNC award.
Romanian spring: director / scriptwriter Anca Miruna Lazarescu, producer Verona Meier, distributor: Razor Films (Romania / Germany)

“The Thessaloniki Film Festival will always stand by your side. It is a pleasure for us to present your work”, stressed TIFF’s president George Corraface, addressing the winners of this year’s Balkan Fund.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Balkan Fund’s artistic director Christina Kallas – Kalogeropoulou said: “We are very proud of the projects the Balkan Fund has awarded over the years. They have received many honors at various cinema festivals around the world. In filmmaking, the script comes first and foremost and scripts are the what the Balkan Fund is all about. In the framework of this initiative, every writer presents a first draft of his or her work, at a stage when he is most vulnerable. Our role here is to appraise the potential of a story and support the writer to develop it”. Ms Kalogeropoulou added: “We believed that others would follow our example, since the Balkans is an area in desperate need of better funding, while opportunities are scarce”. Ms Kallas – Kalogeropoulou invited both the writers and the producers and distributors that participated in the Balkan Fund to give a fight to support other such initiatives.

TIFF’s president Georges Corraface presented the first award of the evening to director and scriptwriter of Orange gardens, Ozkan Kucuk. The filmmaker thanked the Fund and promised to work on the script drawing from all his experiences in the three-day workshop. Receiving the second prize of the evening by scriptwriter – director Razvan Radulescu, Dalibor Matanic, who wrote the script and directed the film Mother of asphalt, said jokingly: “Now I feel really dizzy and its not only because of the ouzo. It is because of what we heard from the jury, of all the useful ideas we got and which we intend to creatively use in the future”.

Taking the floor, director – scriptwriter Richard Kwietniowski, upon inviting Anca Miruna Lazarescu, who wrote the script and directed Romanian spring, to receive her award, commented: “The question is not ‘Why cinema now?’, but ‘What cinema next?’, that is ‘what kind of cinema do we want from now on’”. Anca Miruna Lazarescu confessed: “I was certain that there was no chance of me winning and so I was bracing myself for a melodramatic evening. Suffice to say, that my producer had already departed”. She offered her thanks to the jury for believing in her script even more than she did.

The ceremony closed with the screening of Darko Lungulov’s Here & there, a film that was awarded three years ago by the Balkan Fund and received the 2009 Best New York Narrative prize at Tribeca Festival. Director Darko Lungulov acknowledged the help he received from TIFF, noting that, in addition to the valuable advice he got for his script and the award, the Balkan Fund found a co-producer for his film on his behalf.

The Balkan Fund awards are accompanied by a cash prize of 10.000 euros for each winner, with a view to promote the script’s development. The Balkan Fund has an impressive number of films to its credit, that emerged and were completed with its aid, eventually receiving several prestigious award, thus proving that the cinema industry places high value to the script projects presented each year in the Balkan Fund. The most important of these are:

Here & There, Best New York Narrative award at the Tribeca Film Festival (2009)
The Happiest Girl in the World, Berlin Film Festival, Forum (2009)
Small Crime, Variety Critic’s Choice – Karlovy Vary Festival (2009)
Snow, Grand Prix de la Semaine de la Critique, Cannes Festival (2008)
California Dreamin’ (endless), Prix un certain regard, Cannes Festival (2007)
Grbavica, Golden Bear Award, Berlin Film Festival (2006)

TIFF will screen four films from the Balkan Fund: Here & There (Serbia, 2006 award), First of All, Felicia (Romania, 2007 award), Metastases (Croatia, ειδική μνεία το 2007) and The Happiest Girl in the World (Romania, 2007 participation).