Vilnius Film Festival 26th edition concluded April 5, 2021 with the announcement of European Debut, Short, and Audience Award competition winners. This year’s innovative, COVID-safe festival format was a collaboration between the film industry and the Lithuanian capital’s six top hotels, creating a vacation-at-home experience, where audience members enjoyed a virtual opening ceremony with a red carpet and collaborations with local talent, and watched a program of the year’s top international titles from the comfort of luxurious local hotels, according to a press release from Go Vilnius.
“The opportunity to book hotel rooms to watch movies came just in time for an audience hungry for travel, new places, and experiences. According to the hotels, their occupancy rates reached pre-pandemic levels over the course of the three-week festival,” says Go Vilnius Director Inga Romanovskienė. Preliminary data also reveals that 100,000 viewers tuned in to this year’s diverse lineup of titles.
In a field rich with exciting new films, several stand-out titles took home competition prizes. The five-star jury line-up for the European Debut Competition included Venice Film Festival Artistic Director Gaia Furrer, filmmaker/producer Denis Côté, MUBI VP of Content Daniel Kasman, M-films production company founder Marija Razgutė, and filmmaker Lili Horvát. Director Itonje Søimer Guttormsen’s feminist, tragi-comic fable Gritt took home two European Debut Competition awards—both Best Film and a Best Actress award for star Birgitte Larsen. Best Actor was awarded to Pierre Deladonchamps for his role as the sinister central drifter in Peter Dourontzis’ Rascal, while Ainhoa Rodríguez was named best Director for Destello bravió, her precise portrait of women in small-town Spain. Special Mention was awarded to Tim Leyendekker’s boundary-pushing reconstruction of a notorious case of deliberate HIV transmission, Feast.
Other awards include Short Competition winners, judged by film critic and Cannes Critics’ Week programmer Nanako Tsukidate, director and cinematographer Camille Degeye, and filmmaker Ignas Meilūnas: Best Film winner Places, Vytautas Katkus’ intimate portrait of friendship, and Special Mention awardee Fish Like Us, Raphaela Schmid’s short in which various lives and stories unfold at a Chinese restaurant. Viewers were also able to weigh in on this year’s program, awarding Audience Awards to Best Film Quovadis, Aida?, Jasmila Žbanić’s story of a woman caught in the male game of war; Best Short Film The Little Bird and the Bees, Lena von Döhren’s vibrant animated short; and Best Lithuanian Film Swamp, an intimate character study from director Klementas Davidavičius.
“We’re glad that the language of film transcended our physical separation, providing an unparalleled sense of community and closeness,” said CEO of Vilnius IFF Algirdas Ramaška, thanking fans for their support. “Together with our partners, we were able to provide safe experiences-following quarantine restrictions, such as the private screening rooms in hotels-that surely left indelible memories.”
EUROPEAN DEBUT COMPETITION
Best Film: Gritt (dir. Itonje Søimer Guttormsen)
Best Actress: Birgitte Larsen (Gritt)
Best Actor: Pierre Deladonchamps (Rascal)
Best Director: Ainhoa Rodríguez (Destello bravió)
Special Mention: Feast (dir. Tim Leyendekker)
Best Film: Places (dir. Vytautas Katkus)
Special Mention: Fish Like Us (dir. Raphaela Schmid)
BEST FILM: Quo vadis, Aida? (dir. Jasmila Žbanić)
BEST SHORT FILM: The Little Bird and the Bees (dir. Lena von Döhren)
BEST LITHUANIAN FILM: Swamp (dir. Klementas Davidavičius)