Train Driver's Diary wins at Prague Independent Film Festival

The second edition of the festival helped bring independent filmmakers together

The Serbian film Train Driver's Diary won the Golden Eagle, the top prize at the second edition of the Prague Independent Film Festival, which ended Aug. 6.

The festival ran four days at cinema Evald, with four features and over 30 shorts. There were also networking events for visiting filmmakers. Some 14 prizes were given out.

Train Driver's Diary, directed by Miloš Radović, also won Best Feature Film, and star Lazar Ristovski won Best Actor.

Lazar Ristovski accepted the awards and also answered questions after the screening. He said that both he and the director had experience with trains through relatives who worked for the rail service. The film is a drama with some dark comedic moments about the how fatal accidents affect the train drivers. Almost all train drivers experience them at some point.

Ristovski said the film, shot during 40 days around Belgrade, had a budget of €400,000. When asked in Moscow how much it was, the director said €4 million and people believed it. The reason they could shoot so cheaply was that the trains and all of the uniforms and props were obtained free.

The actor also described the odd lifestyle of people in rail service, who used to have whole villages to themselves. It was not unusual for a train driver to hit a relative or a friend's relative on the tracks, but people didn't hold grudges.

Train Driver's Diary was the Serbian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards but it was not nominated.

The Best Director award went to Alexei Krasovsky for the Russian film The Collector. Actor Konstantin Khabensky won a second Best Actor Award, and the film also took home the Gustav Meyrink Prize (Jury Prize). The film is about a debt collector who is being blackmailed. It previously won the jury award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Best Screenplay went to Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak for the American film Maya Dardell. They also directed the film. Lena Olin won Best Actress for her work in the same film as an aging writer who announces she will commit suicide rather than watch her career decline. She begins a contest to find a young writer to become the executor of her estate. The directors said the idea was inspired by several teachers of literature they had known. Another inspiration was a piece of land they found that had been seized from illegal marijuana growers. They asked themselves what sort of person would live in the isolated place filled with odd details.

The film was originally shown as A Critically Endangered Species, but the producer decided to change the name when it became too hard to find reviews online as the title kept matching with news about real animals on the verge of extinction.

The prize for Best Cinematography went to Rana Kamran for Mah e Mir, a Pakistani film that contrasts a young struggling modern poet against flashback scenes of the life of 18th century poet Mir Taqi Mir. The film was the Pakistani entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards but it was not nominated.

Best Art Direction was won by Ghosts on the Old Road to Camalt, directed by Jason Tovey. The short film took a surrealistic look at a painter struggling with his creations. Peter Gallagher wrote and starred in the film. He said that the creations in paintings take on their own life, and that was what the film tried to address.

Best Short Film went to The Light Thief, directed by Eva Daoud. The film looks at what happens to people when love is snatched from someone and locked away in a vessel with no name.

Best Student Film went to Muñecas, directed by Osvaldo Ozuna. It shows life on the US-Mexican border for a young student whose family is caught up in drug trade.

Best Music Video went to God Came 'Round, directed by Derek Frey and starring Deep Roy, who appeared in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The song is a sad but comedic tale of man looking for love. Derek Frey is the head of Tim Burton's production company.

Best Experimental film went to Time – Retrograde by director David Ellis, a short avant-garde film filled with striking visual imagery.

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