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Cottbus 2009, report by John Bjoernebye, Norway

The Cottbus Festival was created in the wake of the downfall of the Berlin wall. The main focus was to be on the Eastern region, mainly on the former Soviet countries. The Festival has grown from year to year, and set a new record this year: 140 films from 35 countries. Ten films were selected for the competition.

The FICC (Fédération Internationale des Ciné-Clubs) Jury is charged with awarding the Don Quijote Prize. It was created in 1947 at the Cannes Festival, and is an international umbrella organization of film societies and non-profit cinemas. The Prize shall be awarded to a film by a young or new director, and which is not distributed through the usual commercial networks. The Prize consists of a plaque and a diploma.

The Jury has three members, whereof one from the host country. In addition to the German member, the Jury this year had one member from the Czech Republic and one from Norway.

The Jury screened the ten films in the competition group, representing Azerbaijan, Albania, Russia, Croatia, Poland, Georgia, Czech Republic/Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Japan/Russia. Most of the films were made in cooperation with other countries.


Generally speaking, all the films in the competition carried a pessimistic message, addressing both the society and man himself. Several films dealt with the Balkan wars, whose legacy will be with filmmakers from that region for a while.


The Jury awarded the Don Quijote Prize to the Albanian film Alive! by Artan Minarolli. The Jury pointed to the excellent cinematographic way in which the film describes the deep rooted conflict between the modern society and Albania’s traditional, feudal society whose violent actions easily lead to murder.

In addition, the Jury awarded a “Special Mention to a remarkable film in competition”, namely the Russian Buben Baraban by Aleksey Mizgirev. In a minimalistic and yet expressive fashion, the director tells a story of inner and outer emptiness and human cruelty, investigating the extent to which honesty is possible in a world of corruption. 


The Festival highlighted several good films from the “East”, deserving better and wider distribution in the “West”. FICC does a good job at this, but a greater effort is possible. For film societies and non-profit oriented cinemas, a Festival like this is of the greatest value: it gives an overview of the present cinematographic world and allows for valuable personal contacts. At a future Festival, one may consider organizing a seminar on the administration of film clubs. 

The organizers handled well the great challenge of such a Festival. The representatives, drivers and other helpers were all pleasant and efficient. One may have wanted a somewhat more compact concept in central Cottbus, which could have  saved time and reduced the dependence on cars for transportation.


John Bjørnebye

Norway