Philipp Yuryev’s ‘The Whaler Boy’ Wins Top Prize at Transilvania Film Festival

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Philipp Yuryev’s “The Whaler Boy,” which took home the Venice Days award at last year’s Venice Film Festival, won the top prize at the Transilvania Film Festival on Saturday.

The jury praised the Russian director’s feature debut, an offbeat story of a teenage whale hunter on the Bering Strait who sets out to meet a webcam model, for being “beautiful and meticulous in its sense of time and place” while also being “really resonant and contemporary at the same time as being classic.”

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Yuryev, who had not attended the festival, was hastily flown to Cluj from Moscow on Saturday morning, telling the audience: “It is really something surprising to be here, and to have a chance to visit this place and to see you all.” He dedicated the award to the remote whale-hunting community in Chukotka where the movie was filmed, as well as to its young leads Vladimir Onokhov and Vladimir Lyubimtsev, noting: “They made the film.”

During his acceptance speech Yuryev’s microphone briefly cut out, with the audience stepping in to fill the silence with sustained applause. Afterward fest founder Tudor Giurgiu deadpanned: “That didn’t happen at all in these 20 years. It had to happen now.”

Guests arriving at the closing ceremony in Cluj’s historic Union Square – many of whom were attending their first live festival since the start of the coronavirus pandemic – were greeted by the raucous sounds of the Damian & Brothers folk band, accompanied by singer Mădălina Pavăl. After a week of balmy summer weather for a festival that’s typically held in the spring, a brief downpour Saturday afternoon brought some relief to the picturesque medieval city.

In other prizes, Eugen Jebeleanu was named Best Director for “Poppy Field,” which follows a closeted gay police officer who must face his inner demons when he’s forced to intervene during an anti-gay protest at a Bucharest movie theater. The film also took home the Audience Award.

Petra Martínez won the Best Performance Award for her role as a Spanish immigrant who forms an unlikely friendship in a hospital room in Belgium in David Martín de los Santos’ “That Was Life.” A Special Jury Award was given to “Pebbles,” P.S. Vinothraj’s Rotterdam prize winner about an alcoholic wife beater who embarks with his young son on a journey to retrieve the wife he’d chased away.

The Romanian Days Award for Best Feature Film went to “Otto the Barbarian,” director Ruxandra Ghițescu’s first feature, about a 17-year-old punk singer who gets wrapped up in an investigation into his girlfriend Laura’s death. Andrei Huțuleac won the Romanian Days Award for Best Debut with “#dogpoopgirl,” his Moscow Film Festival prize winner about a woman whose life is turned upside-down when a video of a heated confrontation on a Bucharest subway goes viral.

Also on Saturday, the festival recognized veteran Romanian director Nae Caranfil with an Excellence Award, while actress Cezara Dafinescu was given a Lifetime Achievement Award. Film critic and longtime TIFF regular Dan Fainaru received the Special Transilvania 20 Award.

Earlier in the day, the festival’s industry section handed out the Transilvania Pitch Stop Awards. The Chainsaw Europe Award, offering €25,000 ($29,700) in post-production services, went to “The Talentless,” directed by Radivoje Bukvić and produced by Jovana Jovičić of Serbia’s Prikaz Film. The Transilvania Pitch Stop Development Award, a cash prize of €7,000 ($8,300) offered by Avanpost Media and TIFF, went to “The Poor Dove,” directed by Călin Laur and produced by Ștefan Nahaba of Moldova’s Racketa Production.

Here’s the full list of awards:

Transilvania Trophy for Best Film: “The Whaler Boy,” by Philipp Yuryev

Directing Award: Eugen Jebeleanu (“Poppy Field”)

Special Jury Award: “Pebbles,” by P.S. Vinothraj

Performance Award: Petra Martínez (“That Was Life”)

Special Mention of the Jury: “The Flood Won’t Come,” by Marat Sargsyan

FIPRESCI Prize: “Unidentified,” by Bogdan George Apetri

Audience Award: “Poppy Field,” by Eugen Jebeleanu

Audience Award for Romanian Film: “Wild Romania,” by Dan Dinu and Cosmin Dumitrache

Excellence Award: Nae Caranfil

Lifetime Achievement Award: Cezara Dafinescu

Special Transilvania 20 Award: Dan Fainaru

Romanian Days Award for Best Feature Film: “Otto the Barbarian,” by Ruxandra Ghițescu

Romanian Days Award for Best Debut: “#dogpoopgirl,” by Andrei Huțuleac

Romanian Days Award for Best Short Film: “When Night Meets Dawn,” by Andreea Cristina Borțun

Special Mention of the Short Film Jury in the Romanian Days: “Cradle,” by Paul Mureșan

Transilvania Pitch Stop Awards:

Chainsaw Europe Award: “The Talentless,” directed by Radivoje Bukvić, produced by Jovana Jovičić (Prikaz Film – Serbia)

Transilvania Pitch Stop Development Award: “The Poor Dove,” directed by Călin Laur, produced by Ștefan Nahaba (Racketa Production – Moldova)

Moldova National Film Center Award: “Sasha,” directed by Vladimir Beck, produced by Katerina Mikhaylova, Vasily Klepatsky, Ruben Dishdishyan (Vega Film, Mars Media Entertainment – Russia)

CoCo Award, presented by Connecting Cottbus Co-Production Market: “The Ways We Look at the Sun,” directed by Ioana Țurcan, produced by Ana Maria Pîrvan (Studioset Production – Romania)

Full Moon Script Contest:

Script for a feature film: “A Girl Alone in the Night,” by Sorana Borhină and Rodica Domințeanu

Pilot script for series or miniseries: “The Bâlea Lac Case/Dark Histories,” by Alex Țibu and Șerban Racovițeanu

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