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5 May, 2020

Low-budget comedy wins best picture at Ukrainian Film Academy Awards

COVID-19 pandemic could not stop the Ukrainian Film Academy from presenting its Zolota Dzyga awards for achievement in the development of Ukrainian cinema

The awards ceremony, often called “the Ukrainian Oscars,” took place online on the night of May 3. Nominees joined the live broadcast via video chats to give acceptance speeches and talk to the hosts who were in a studio.

The big winner of the night was “My Thoughts Are Silent” – a comedy-drama about dreams and parent-child relationships set in Zakarpattia Oblast. Besides the main Zolota Dzyga for best picture, the film won awards for the best screenplay and best actress.

Its director and co-screenwriter Antonio Lukich also won the “discovery of the year” award, presented for the first time by the Ukrainian Film Academy days before the main ceremony. “My Thoughts Are Silent” is his feature film debut.

“You can get the ‘discovery of the year’ award only once, for your debut,” Lukich said in a statement released by the Academy. “I thank you all. This statuette will always remind me of the difficult and fun times of youth, the first mistakes and achievements in the profession.”

As a low-budget oddball comedy, “My Thoughts Are Silent” was a surprise hit in the Ukrainian box office. Over 50,000 people watched it in cinemas in the five weeks that it was screened raising Hr 9.4 million ($348,600). It also won awards at several film festivals – the special jury prize in Karlovy Vary, the Czech Republic, audience prize in Odesa and discovery prize by Ukrainian Film Critics.

One of its stars, prominent Ukrainian actress Irma Vitovska won the best actress award for her role as a single mother who doesn’t want her son to emigrate from Ukraine. Last year she received the same award for her role as a grandmother in the mystical comedy-drama “Brama” (meaning “Gate” in Ukrainian).

“I’m happy to have this (award) for both a grandma and a mom,” Vitovska said in her acceptance speech. “It’s a jackpot for me to receive Dzyga for the second time in a row. I promise to rest then, not to be nominated … The are many young actresses to cheer for.”

Another unexpected hit feature debut “Heat Singers” won Zolota Dzyga as the best documentary film. It explores the work of utility workers in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk and their hobby – signing in a trade union choir.

“We want all utility workers and all people of invisible labor to see this prize as their own,” the director of the film Nadia Parfan said. “And we wish all documentary filmmakers to have great budgets so we could make documentary art.”

Awards in two other key nominations – best director and best actor – went to Ukrainian-Crimean Tatar filmmakers Nariman Aliev and Akhtem Seitablaev for the film “Homeward.” The heartbreaking drama is about a father and son driving the body of the older son, who was killed in Russia’s war against Ukraine, to be buried in the Russia-annexed Crimea.

Two films share the second place by award count after “My Thoughts Are Silent” this year. “Vulkan,” another comedy-drama set in the Ukrainian steppe, won three awards – for best supporting actor, sound and cinematography. Historical action film “Zakhar Berkut” (or “The Rising Hawk”) won three prizes for best production design, costume design and make-up.

The Academy also awarded a special prize for the contribution to the development of Ukrainian cinema to Ada Rogovtseva, a Soviet-Ukrainian actress best known for her leading role in “Hail, Mary” (1970) and a supporting role in “Taras Bulba” (2009). Rogovtseva teaches acting at the National University of Culture and in her eighties still appears in Ukrainian films. Her latest role was in the 2020 film “Viddana,” an adaptation of a popular novel by Ukrainian author Sofia Andrukhovych, entitled “Felix Austria.”

“I congratulate everyone who received the award for their work. I get it for the resume of my work. I am grateful, very grateful to all who do not forget. And I want to get back to my beloved work as soon as possible,” Rogovtseva said in a video address from her home in the countryside where she’s observing quarantine.

The audience choice award went to the patriotic historical action-drama “Kruty 1918,” and the prize for the best short film went to “In Our Synagogue,” inspired by Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel. Altogether, awards were given in 23 nominations this year.

Zolota Dzyga award is named after Ukrainian director Dziga Vertov, who helmed the classic documentary “Man With a Movie Camera.” The name also translates as the “Golden Spinning Top.” The awards ceremony has taken place for the fourth time.

Zolota Dzyga nominations and winners are determined by the Ukrainian Film Academy that has over 350 film professionals. The Academy was created in February 2017.

Kyiv Post

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