‘Ajami’ takes Golden Alexander

An international jury headed by director Theo Angelopoulos gave top honors and 40,000 euros at the 50th Thessaloniki International Film Festival to «Ajami,» a multilayered crime drama set in a mixed Israeli-Palestinian neighborhood in Jaffa and directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani. Shani explained that «Ajami» – whose cast comprises entirely nonprofessional actors – was initially written off by distributors due to its controversial story and setting. Released eight weeks ago in Israel, the film has become a big success. At its festival screening in Thessaloniki, Shani said the reception so far has been «a slap in the face to all those people who said they know what ordinary people want.» «Medal of Honor,» a Romanian pic about a retired man who accidentally receives a medal of honor, also won big. It went home with the jury’s second prize, the Silver Alexander (25,000 euros), the International Federation of Film Critics’ (FIPRESCI) award and the Greek Union of Film Television and Audiovisual Technicians (ETEKT) award. Lead Victor Rebengiuc also won best male performance. The International Jury’s Best Screenplay award was split between «Ajami» and «Medal of Honor.» Best female performance went to Ruth Nirere, in an almost entirely speechless but loaded portrayal of a Tutsi woman in hiding during genocide-era Rwanda. The Best Director award went to Rigoberto Perezcano for Mexican-Spanish feature «Northless.» South Korean film «Missing Person» won for artistic achievement and mentions went to «Children Metal Divers» and to actress Katharina Schuttler for her role in «The Day will Come.» The Cinema and the City award (-15,000) went to Colombian picture «Blood and Rain,» while the Human Values award (-15,000) was given to Samuel Maoz’s «Lebanon.» No Greek State Film awards will be given this year, a result of the Filmmakers of Greece group’s withdrawal of 52 films from the festival in protest at state film funding laws.

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