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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nika Prizes Spotlight Rising Stars

This year's Nika ceremonies to honor the best in the film industry were marked by youthful triumphs: Four up-and-coming filmmakers were awarded the coveted prize Saturday.

Armen Medvedev, chairman of Roskomkino, the government entity that oversees Russia's film industry and has funded several innovative projects, noted the impressive breakthrough of young directors. "This year's victory was for filmmakers whose films will be made into the 21st century," he said.

Artur Aristakisyan, 31, netted the Best Documentary award for his film diary "The Palms," a series of documentary encounters with beggars in the Moldovan city of Chisinau. The film was shot over six years and has already received prizes in Berlin and San Francisco.

Shaggy-haired and clad in blue jeans, the first hippie of the Russian film community made his way past tuxedoed hosts and nominees, past long-legged beauties to receive his prize. In a brief interview after the ceremony, Aristakisyan said he hopes the Nika prize will be a ticket to a wider viewing audience. "In spite of the prizes, not so many people have seen my film -- and I hope it will get distribution after Nika."

The Best Original Screenplay award was given to the young creative partnership of Pyotr Loutsik, 34, and Alexei Samoryadov, who was 32 when he died, for "Children of the Cast Iron Gods." The promising cinematographer Sergei Kozlov received the Best Cinematographer award for his work in the same film, a drama about gray lives in a sprawling foundry city.

An animated version of Darwin's "The Origin of Species" won the prize for Best Animation for Renat Gazizov, not yet 30.

But experience prevailed in the categories of Best Feature Film and Best Director. Both prizes went to master filmmaker Vladimir Khotinenko, 42, for his drama "Makarov," an indictment of the violence, decay and selfish capitalist individualism of post-Soviet society. Sergei Makovetsky, 36, who plays the poet-turned-gunman in the film, was named Best Actor.

The award for Best Actress was presented to Marina Neyolova, for her performance in "You Are My Only One."

As part of the six-hour ceremonies, which will be televised Friday at 10 P.M. on the Russian Channel, the awards' presenters, the Union of Russian Filmmakers, saluted past generations of filmmakers. A prize for Honor and Dignity was given to veteran film director Grigory Chukhrai, whose "Ballad of a Soldier" (1959) heralded Khrushchev's thaw of the next decade.

The backdrop for the ceremonies at the Central House of Cinema was a set trumpeting classical glory, with a colonade and ruins reminiscent of the Roman forum guarded by two giant statues of the Hollywood Oscars, on which the Nikas are patterned. The elite audience of film and pop luminaries did not take kindly to St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak's sarcastic comment that the set recalled the Soviet empire's ruins.

The prizes, given in 15 categories, were handed out by film stars and other celebrities, including chess champion Garry Kasparov. Laima Vaikule and other pop singers provided entertainment. Comedians poked fun at the collapse of Chara Bank, in which many filmmakers lost their savings.

At the close of the festivities, Sergei Solovyov, the chairman of the Union of Filmmakers, summed up the evening: "It's the most important prize for us, for the judgments are made by professionals, and it's hard to meet their requirements. After all, Nika is our huge film Christmas tree, our religion."