The third edition of the Valletta Film Festival, organised by the Film Grain Foundation, announced its winners from the competitive section last night in a closing ceremony in the historic open air venue, Pjazza Teatru Rjal.
Seven feature films competed for the awards of Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Director and Best Film. The film Columbus was a big winner on the night, winning both Best Film and Best Actress for Haley Lu Richardson. In a video message from LA, Richardson thanked the festival and praised the film’s sense of quiet beauty. Nico Mensinga, the screenwriter of Daphne, won Best Screenplay and flew out from the Edinburgh Film Festival, to accept the award at VFF. A Sicilian Ghost Story, written and directed by Antonio Piazza and Fabio Grassadonia, also won the award for Best Cinematography. Luca Bigazzi, the director of photography, who also works closely with Paolo Sorrentino, sent a video message praising the entire creative team of the film and hoping to visit the VFF in the near future.
The feature film jury gave Philippe Van Leeuw the award for Best Director for the film Insyriated.
The jury were moved by the director’s depiction of everyday life threatened by the horrors of war and were impressed by the limited use of space and timeframe to generate such a strong sense of fear and claustrophobia. Diamand Bou Abboud, one of the actresses of the film, accepted the award on Van Leeuw’s behalf. Insyriated also won the Audi Audience Award, a new initiative which allowed audiences to vote for their favourite film.
Nikola Ristanovski won Best Actor for his role in Montenegrin film The Black Pin, about a priest in a small seaside parish whose life descends into absurdity when he opposes a large property sale. A group of colourful and vengeful villagers declare war against him, drawing on the superstitions of the local community.
Contemporary themes of migration and the effects of war dominated the winners for Best Short Film and Best Documentary. The former award went to the Palestinian film Aydy, My Second Eye, which tells the story of two Palestinian boys who run away from the protection of their mother to play music. The director of the film, Ahmad Saleh, was in Malta for the closing ceremony and emphasised the power of film to connect societies, even those ravaged by war. Documentary filmmaker Tonislav Hristov, who won the Best Documentary Award for The Good Postman, also echoed Saleh’s words. The documentary depicts an election in a small Bulgarian village in which a candidate offers passing refugees a home and a new beginning in the aging community.