In a small German city 120 km southeast of Berlin, not far from the Polish border, a film festival has taken place every year since 1991. Cottbus has since become the world's leading festival of Eastern European cinema, and Germany's most important film festival after the Berlinale. The festival's competitive sections, as well as a variety of themed programmes, attract a local public as well as hundreds of international guests and journalists: nearly 19 500 spectators attended this year, a record number. Meanwhile, 'Connecting Cottbus', the festival's industry platform, offers an opportunity for producers and directors to meet and plan new Eastern European film projects.
2012's International Competition comprised 10 films: three from the former Yugoslavia (all relating to the war of the 1990s), two Polish, two Russian, and one each from Romania, Latvia and Kazakhstan. The main prize of €20 000 went to ”Women's Day” (”Dzien kobiet”, dir. Maria Sadowska), the story of female supermarket employees fighting back against corporate bullying. The prize for best direction went to Leszek Dawid for ”You Are God” (”Jestes Bogiem”), a biopic of Piotr 'Magik' Luszcz, co-founder of hip-hop group Paktofonika. While Polish films took the top two prizes, Russia dominated in the acting prizes. Best actress was awarded jointly to Anna Mikhalkova and Yana Troyanova for their performance as an unlikely pair of friends in ”Kokoko”: Mikhalkova plays a reserved ethnographer who takes in a big-hearted bimbo (Troyanova) when both women have their handbags stolen on the night train to St. Petersburg. Best actor went to Vladimir Svirskiy (”In the Fog”) for his quietly tortured portrayal of a Partisan who finds his comrades, neighbours and family all turned against him through Nazi manipulation. Information on other prizes, including those awarded in the 'Short Feature Competition' and the 'U 18 German-Polish Youth Film Competition' can be found on the festival's web site (www.filmfestivalcottbus.de/en/press/press-releases/).
The festival's non-competitive sections included 'YU2EU', a special programme on Croatia to mark the country's upcoming accession to the European Union (features by Branko Schmidt and shorts by young directors); a retrospective of Helke Misselwitz, best known for her films on German reunification; 'globalEAST', a selection of films on the relationship between Eastern Europe and Ibero-American countries; and a Focus section on 'Eastern Europe by Religions' with films that examine the role of Christianity, Judaism and Islam in the region. (Alison Frank)
Cottbus Festival of East European Cinema: www.filmfestivalcottbus.de