Athina Tsangari’s ‘Chevalier’ wins top prize at London Film Festival

Athina Tsangari’s ‘Chevalier’ wins top prize at London Film Festival

Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari’s “Chevalier,” a battle of male egos that takes place on board a luxury yacht in the Aegean Sea, has won the top prize at the 59th British Film Institute’s London Film Festival Awards.

The film, an absurdist character study from the maker of the 2010’s “Attenberg,” tells the story of six men who, stuck on a broken-down vessel, embark on a game to decide who is “the best in everything.” The winner is to receive a ring, the Chevalier of the title.

Announcing the best film prize at the Banqueting House in Whitehall on Saturday, the president of the festival jury, Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, whose “Ida” won last year’s competition, described the movie as a “study of male antagonism seen through the eyes of a brave and original filmmaker.”

“With great formal rigor and irresistible wit, Athina Rachel Tsangari has managed to make a film that is both a hilarious comedy and a deeply disturbing statement on the condition of Western humanity,” Pawlikowski said.

The distinction comes a few months after “The Lobster,” directed by Tsangaris’s frequent collaborator and main auteur of the so-called “Greek weird wave” scene Yorgos Lanthimos, won the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

The awards ceremony in London also saw Cate Blanchett awarded the British Film Institute Fellowship, by her “Lord of the Rings” co-star Ian McKellen, for her outstanding contributions to film.

Born in Athens in 1966, Tsangari studied literature at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki before moving on to performance studies at the New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and film directing at the University of Texas.

Besides “Chevalier” and “Attenberg,” Tsangari’s directing credits include “The Slow Business of Going” (2000). She was also part of the creative team led by Dimitris Papaioannou which developed the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympics, working as a projection designer and video director.

In 2013, Tsangari served as a member of the jury at the 63rd edition of the Berlin International Film Festival.