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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yiddish Film Wins Moscow Prize

"Ivan and Abraham", a film shot in Ukraine by a little-known French director, was awarded the grand prize Monday at the 18th Moscow International Film Festival.


The film, by Yolande Zauberman, tells the story of two Jewish boys in Poland in the 1930s. Shot in black and white and mostly in Yiddish, with a Lithuanian lead actor, the movie was Zauberman's first feature. It opened in Paris to critical acclaim this spring.


"The Grand Prix decision was unanimous", the chairman of the jury, Claude Lelouche, also of France, said at a press conference Monday. He hailed Zauberman as a "young and promising director".


Zauberman, who was born in Paris and is of East European Jewish descent, had previously made two documentaries, in two different locations. She has never shot a film in French.


In a recent interview with the International Herald Tribune, she said that filming "Ivan and Abraham" had been like a dream, with the multi-ethnic cast and crew mixing with local Ukrainian peasants.


"It was like the Tower of Babel with all those languages and extraordinary people", she said.


The announcement of the prizes Monday capped a festival in which a major item on the agenda was confusion. Some films that had been scheduled were never screened, translation was hit and miss and attendance was disappointing.


Lelouche told reporters that he had not been satisfied "with the level of the selected films".


Tilda Swinton, a member of the jury and the star of the British-Russian film "Orlando", commented however that the films shown in Moscow represented "the state of cinema at the moment, worldwide".


"Out of 22 films", Swinton said in a telephone interview, "I think it's quite normal to expect five percent of them to be as good as one would hope".


The jury's special prize went to the Russian film "Barabanyada" directed by Sergei Ovcharov, a silent film chronicling the adventures of the drummer of a funeral orchestra. Swinton said the jury "had been waiting" for "Barabanyada" and "Ivan and Abraham", her two personal favorites.


The best actor award went to Lee Duk Wha of South Korea for his performance in "I Will Survive", and the best actress prize went to Hulya Avsar, the star of the Turkish film "Berlin in Berlin".


The jury gave the Norwegian director Emil Stang Lund the prize for best direction for his film "Bat Wings", and the prize for the best script went to Gilles Desjourdans for his work on the Canadian film "Les Pots Casses".


The film festival opened July 1 at the Central Festival Hall in the Rossiya Hotel, and two films were shown each evening through Sunday night.


Although the festival suffered from haphazard schedules and translation problems, Swinton said she felt the event had "gone very well". The actress, who filmed part of "Orlando" in Russia, said that despite the problems the Moscow contest had been "a major European festival".