Director Alexander Nanau and producer Bernard Michaux at the presentation of Collective at the Luxembourg City Film Festival (© Massimo Cataldo/Luxembourg City Film Festival)
Despite the coronavirus crisis, the gathering has just unveiled its winners’ list and enjoyed a strong edition.
Ten years after it was created, the Luxembourg City Film Festival can now congratulate itself on the dazzling progress it has made since then. The professional maturity with which the organisers have been able to raise the profile of this now unmissable European rendezvous certainly commands respect.
Among the event’s myriad guardian angels is the chair of the board of directors, Colette Flesch, the first woman to be elected burgomaster of Luxembourg in 1970, and formerly the Minister of Foreign Affairs, of Foreign Trade, of Overseas Development, of Finance and of Justice during the 1980s. Now having reached the tenth edition of what was deemed "a gamble on the future" back in 2011, a satisfied and confident Mrs Flesch publicly announced that she was stepping down from the organisation team during the opening ceremony on 5 March.
It was a moment rich in emotions, as Alejandro Jodorowsky was seated on the front row. The French-Chilean filmmaker was there to receive an honour for lifetime achievement. Particularly memorable was the impassioned speech tracing the career of this "master of esotericism", delivered by Philippe Rouyer, the president of the Union of French Film Critics. The latter also led an exceptional master class with Jodorowsky in Luxembourg City’s Cinémathèque, another of the festival’s key venues, which also welcomed animation director Jean-François Laguionie and his regular collaborator Anik Le Ray (The Prince’s Voyage [+]).
The sudden but foreseeable halt to the gathering’s activities at the halfway point in response to the European-wide spread of the coronavirus did not, however, seem to detract from the success of the event among the public: while it does not presently have all of the figures to hand, the festival recorded the participation of 18,000 viewers, 12,250 of which physically came to the movie theatres.
And that’s not counting those who took part in the renowned VR Pavilion, which this year unspooled in the vast spaces inside Neumünster Abbey. It was a total success: right from the official opening of the venues in the presence of Minister of Culture Sam Tanson, the flow of curious visitors never ceased.
Among the most popular installations were A Linha by Brazil’s Ricardo Laganaro and the Belgian-French-Luxembourgish co-production 7 Lives by Jan Kounen, not to mention the exceptional Cosmos Within Us by Tupac Martir, who once again pushes the boundaries of the genre: installed in a sublime space under Neumünster’s roof, this performance incorporating dancers and musicians was quite a feat for the festival and the partners that helped to organise the pavilion, including the Film Fund Luxembourg and, of course, the Phi Centre in Montreal.
And there was another first this year: a jury dedicated to judging the VR selection handed its Award for Best Immersive Experience to Battlescar I, II & III by Nico Casavecchia and Martin Allais. This was also a good opportunity to pay tribute to the innovative spirit and the considerable contributions made to the sector by the virtual reality pioneered by French company Atlas V, which was given pride of place during the gathering. Its president and co-founder, Fred Volhuer, also took part in the third VR Day alongside various other participants (see the news).
In these exceptional circumstances, with the International Jury and Press Jury only being able to watch half of the works in the Official Competition, the Orange Grand Prize (worth €10,000) and the Critics’ Award were sadly not given out. Nevertheless, the BGL BNP Paribas Documentary Award (worth €5,000) was won by Collective [+] by Alexander Nanau, a hard-hitting film denouncing corruption in the Romanian healthcare system.
Out of competition, the festival’s programme enabled audiences to discover several particularly strong Luxembourgish co-productions, such as River Tales [+] by Julie Schroell, Tune into the Future [+] by Éric Schockmel, Dreamland [+] by Bruce McDonald and Jumbo [+] by Zoé Wittock, among other movies.
Here is the full list of winners:
Grand Prize – by Orange
Documentary Award – by BGL BNP Paribas
Collective [+] - Alexander Nanau (Romania/Luxembourg)
Audience Award – by Orange
VR Award for Best Immersive Experience
Battlescar - Nico Casavecchia, Martin Allais (France/USA)
Cosmos Within Us - Tupac Martir (Luxembourg/UK)
Teen Jury Award – by Kinepolis
Babyteeth - Shannon Murphy (Australia)
Schoolchildren’s Jury Award
Roads [+] - Sebastian Schipper (France/Germany)
Kids’ Jury Award
Romy’s Salon - Mischa Kamp (Netherlands/Germany)