'The Zone of Interest,' 'Tiger Stripes' and 'Toll' are the big winners of FFO24

Every year, the winners within the LOOK!-, COOP!- and SOON!- competition are announced during Film Festival Ostend (FFO). This year, ‘The Zone of Interest’, ‘Tiger Stripes’ and ‘Toll’ are going home with awards.

'The Zone of Interest': A masterpiece that unanimously convinced the jury

This year's LOOK!-competition consisted of twelve strong films that you have to see on the big screen. No easy task for the jury who had to choose one winner. The jury, comprised of chairman and director Stijn Coninx, director Vasilis Katsoupis, actress Renée Soutendijk, cinematographer Virginie Surdej and producer Joram Willink, unanimously agreed that 'The Zone of Interest' by Jonathan Glazer - who has been nominated for five Oscars and nine BAFTAs - was voted Best Film. In Glazer's latest film, Auschwitz commander Rudolf Höss and his wife Hedwig try to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp.

Distributeur Heidi Vermander (Cinéart, The Zone of Interest)
Distributeur Heidi Vermander (Cinéart, The Zone of Interest)
“The film is a masterpiece, opening a new chapter in film history. The perfectly executed storytelling and magnificent soundtrack make the horror creep in with sounds and cries from off-screen, through and over the walls. You don't want to see what you hear. The contrast between inside and outside "the zone" is enormous. To what extent is it possible to turn a blind eye to inhumane situations out of self-interest? However much the characters strive to ignore it, it ultimately does not leave them - and thus the viewer - unmoved."

Although the film is set in World War II, "The Zone of Interest" is very relevant today, the jury says:

“The behavior of the characters is very close to what is happening in the world today: choosing self-interest and comfort, and turning a blind eye to inhumanity. The film emphasizes how important it is not to look away from the situations happening today, because just as in "The Zone of Interest," the choice of inhuman "systems" will have personal consequences.”

'The Zone of Interest' is now playing in Belgian theaters (Cinéart).The LOOK!-competition is co-sponsored by SBC.

The strongest co-production is Amanda Nell Eu's quirky film 'Tiger Stripes'

Remarkable Belgian and Dutch co-productions, that is what the COOP!-competition wants to highlight. Productions that raise each other to a higher level through international cooperation. The jury that had to consider the eleven selected films consists of jury president and programmer of the Netherlands Film Festival Claire van Daal, actress Annelore Crollet, actress Violet Braeckman, actress Isis Cabolet and director Raf Roosens.

The jury rejoiced in the large number of female directors and interesting female lead characters in the competition and ultimately selected "Tiger Stripes" by Amanda Nell Eu as the winner. The film tells the story of 12-year-old Zaffan who lives in a rural Malaysian community and enjoys a carefree childhood with her two heartbroken friends. Until she gets her period for the first time, fails to recognize her own body and feels herself drifting further and further away from her friends, culture and herself. According to the jury, it is "the most quirky film they saw”.

"The young actresses are downright amazing, especially the lead actress who delivers a tour de force both emotionally and physically. Despite the film's heavy subject matter, the message comes across powerfully through much-needed humor and absurdity. The ominous atmosphere is masterfully emphasized by the music, sound design, styling and locations. The collaboration of these various disciplines takes the film to the next level. Although the setting seems like another world, the universal theme still makes the film relatable."
Producer Ellen Havenith (Tiger Stripes)
Producer Ellen Havenith (Tiger Stripes)

The Malaysian film is a co-production with the Dutch PRPL:

"The fact that this film is made in Malaysia adds an extra dimension, and we sincerely hope that the girls the film is about will have the opportunity to see it. The young protagonist guides us through the story with surprising playfulness and disarmament. We sympathize intensely with her as she very refreshingly presents herself as someone who is in favor of change and broadening points of view rather than being a girl who is 'just against.'"

'Tiger Stripes' can be seen in Belgian theaters from April 24 (Vedette Film).The COOP!-competition is co-sponsored by Camalot Belgium.

'Toll' wins with a powerful story of maternal love and societal pressures

The newest generation of filmmakers has clearly not been idle. With no fewer than twelve films in the SOON!-competition, it was a challenge for the jury to pick out one production. The jury, consisting of jury president and actress Charlotte De Bruyne, actress Maïmouna Badjie, actor Nathan Bouts, actress Hanna van Vliet and actor and Berlinale Shooting Star Thibaud Dooms, described the competition as "a journey through different perspectives and quests for voices and identities. When a film can be a mirror, but at the same time a slap in the face, that is where it happens, according to the SOON!-jury.

After much deliberation, "Toll" by Carolina Markowicz has become the final winner of the SOON!-competition. The film tells the story of Suellen, a Brazilian toll booth attendant and devoted mother to her teenage son Antonio, who ends up helping a gang of thieves. With the extra money she earns, she wants to send her son to an expensive workshop that would redeem him from his homosexual orientation. Caught between maternal love and societal pressures, Suellen navigates the complexities of parenthood.

Editor Lautaro Colace (Toll)
Editor Lautaro Colace (Toll)

 

"'Toll' is a film that does not judge and portrays its characters in a smart and nuanced way. With a mix between social realism and satire, Markowicz has created a film that makes us love each character. At many moments, the film breaks the classically familiar gender roles between mother and son, but equally between girlfriends and lovers. Queerness is not problematized by the main character Antonio within himself. He is proud; the world around him is the problem. As a result, the film is hopeful without denying the difficulties of strict societal norms - and of living together at all."

In addition to being hopeful, the film is also innovative:

"With empathy and humor, Markowicz establishes characters that you recognize, but at the same time have never seen on screen before: a primitive Catholic woman who informs her friend that her son is sick because he is gay, but at the same time has adventures with camion drivers next to the highway is just one of the brilliant examples. Morality is questioned in this film through various characters. Markowicz is an impressive voice and an example for a new generation of filmmakers."

'A mild gesture' by Ann-Julie Vervaeke wins the Short Film Competition

With the short film competition - supported by Amplo, Flow, Camalot and Titles - FFO gives new filmmakers a platform to present their fresh and surprising productions to the general public, and since 2018, it has been tackling a competition for Flemish short films. This year, the competition consisted of no fewer than twelve short films from Belgian soil.

‘A Troubled Man’, ‘The Reject’, ‘Pepijn’, ‘Myth’, ‘Window’, ‘Old Birdie’, ‘Hearts of Stone’, ‘Vilse’, ‘Orange Flavored Love’, ‘Een mild gebaar’, ‘Zodiac’ en ‘Ungodly’ all competed for the award. Three professional jury members, director Domien Huyghe, actress Anne-Laure Vandeputte and cinematographer Maxime Lahousse saw twelve strong short films, each with their own voice, that managed to move them, make them laugh and make them think. Yet there was one short film that stood out: "Een mild gebaar" by Ann-Julie Vervaeke.

It is a film that addresses a non-obvious topic and also makes that theme almost physically palpable to the viewer: 

"This film really got under our skin and didn't let go for the rest of the day. The film feels necessary and urgent in this day and age, and the subject is portrayed in a bold way. A film about making choices, being allowed to make choices and the power of shared suffering."

UFK Press awards

The press also gets the chance to pay tribute to their favorite films at the festival. Every year, the Union of Film criticism (UFK) awards the UFK Press awards, in which a jury of film experts, who review films professionally, crown their ultimate favorite. This year's UFK jury consisted of UFK president Marc Bussens (Fast Forward - FILM - Snapshots), Eric Stockman (HUMO), Igor Vandenberghe (Krant van West-Vlaanderen), Didier Becu (Schokkend nieuws - Fast Forward) and Linda Crivits (FILM - Snapshots). 

Marc Bussens (UFK-jury)
Marc Bussens (UFK-jury)

The Union of Film criticism (UFK) chose ‘The Zone of Interest’ of Jonathan Glazer as Best Film:

"The geometrically constructed domestical anatomy of an 'aural' Holocaust gets deep under the skin. This detailed, unfiltered and conceptually brilliant portrait of a frightening, alienating inferno era is perfectly portrayed."

Special mentions go to Koen Mortier's poignant "Skunk" and Paola Cortellesi's "C'è ancora domani”.

"Koen Mortier zooms in very realistically, yet harshly, on a dysfunctional and marginal family - and unfortunately there are still too many of those in our own 'land of promise.' The film gives the precarious message that the environment you are born into and the upbringing you receive are determinative."

About "C'è ancora domani" by Paola Cortellesi, the UFK jury says the following:

"Rarely have we seen such an original and sharply comic feature-length debut that zooms in on patriarchal culture, gender violence and women's rights in a punishing way while paying a wonderful tribute to the Italian neorealist film genre."

'C'è ancora domani' can be seen in Belgian theaters (Arti Film) from March 20.


Here you can find all visuals.

Press interviews via Felix Bertrand.


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