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Fernanda Valadez’s ‘Identifying Features’ Takes Top Prize at Thessaloniki Film Festival

Fernanda Valadez’s ‘Identifying Features’ Takes Top Prize at Thessaloniki Film Festival

“Identifying Features,” Fernanda Valadez’s searing abduction drama set along the U.S.-Mexico border, was awarded the Golden Alexander for best feature film at the 61st Thessaloniki Film Festival.

The awards were announced Monday at the conclusion of the Greek fest’s digital edition, which ran Nov. 5-15. Valadez’s feature debut, which was a double award winner in the World Cinema dramatic competition in Sundance, follows the extraordinary ordeal of a woman who sets out in search of her teenage son two months after he left their village to find work in the U.S.

“In a cruel world of heartbreaks, tragedy and survival, a story of an unexpected bond is born,” the international jury said in its decision. “The film stands as a reminder of the limitless space artistic expression can take.”

Greek director Georgis Grigorakis took home the Silver Alexander Special Jury Award for his feature debut, “Digger,” which premiered in the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama strand. The jury praised the film’s “cinematic force” in telling a story that is “so local and yet so universal.” “Digger” also received the international competition audience award.

The Bronze Alexander Special Jury Award for best director went to Anders Ølholm and Frederik Louis Hviid for “Shorta,” which the jury described as a “brisk and nerve-wracking thriller [that] couldn’t be more relevant for our times.” The film premiered in the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week sidebar.

The award for best actress went to Joanna Scanlan, for her performance in Aleem Khan’s Cannes Critics’ Week title “After Love.” Aris Servetalis was named best actor for his role in “Apples,” the directorial debut of Greek helmer Christos Nikou, which opened the Horizons section in Venice. Another Horizons player, “Night of the Kings,” by Ivorian helmer Philippe Lacôte, won the award for best artistic achievement.

The festival’s Meet the Neighbors competition, which screens first or second features from directors in the wider region of Southeast Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East, handed its Golden Alexander to “200 Meters,” Palestinian director Ameen Nayfeh’s portrait of the absurdity of everyday life along the border wall separating Israel from the West Bank. The film debuted as part of the Venice Days competition at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the BNL People’s Choice Audience Award. Nayfeh also won the Bronze Alexander Special Jury Award for best director.

Nora Martyrosian scooped the Silver Alexander Special Jury Award for her Cannes 2020 selection “Should the Wind Drop.” The Meet the Neighbors jury also handed out Special Jury Awards to “Spiral,” by director Cecília Felméri, and “Luxor,” by Zeina Durra. The sidebar’s audience award went to Greek director Dimitris Koutsiabasakos, for his world premiere “Daniel ’16.”

Written by Oli Coleman

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