Debra Granik'sWinter's Bone won the Bronze Horse for Best Film, the highest honor at the 21st Stockholm International Film Festival that ran November 17-28. It also won best film from the FIPRESCI jury, the Association of International Film Critics. The award to Granik was a refreshing nod in a festival which typically features hard boiled films with aestheticized violence by directors such as Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs, 1992, Pulp Fiction, 1994), Gaspar Noe (Irréversible, 2001) and Giorgos Lanthimos(Dogtooth (2009). This year Michael Winterbottom's controversial The Killer Inside Me destined for home viewing qualified for the category. Maybe some fresh blood in programming will scrape off this veneer in coming festivals.
The Stockholm Film festival precedes the Göteborg Film Festival held in January, which is the largest film market in Scandinavia. Because the Stockholm fest runs in November, it is often a good festival to catch some of the harvest from the past year's Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian festivals.
In recent years the festival has been known to award work by women in film, every other year for the past six years. Granik is the fourth woman in the festival's two decades to win the Bronze Horse. Previous winners are Lucile Hadzihalilovic for Innocence (2004) Laurie Collyer for Sherrybaby (2006), and Courtney Hunt for Frozen River (2008).
Holly Hunterwas the head of the jury that selected Winter's Bone. Hunter remarked that it was "the most amazing honor to preside over the jury" when she was presented by festival director Git Sheynius at the outdoor screening in freezing weather of Nine Lives (2005) by Rodrigo Garcia. "The fact that its dark from 3 o'clock on is so romantic, and the fact that I was brought on by fire is a first for me", said Hunter to the audience gathered in the town square. She told the crowd that she had heard a lot of good things about the festival from directors such as the Coen brothers and had wanted to come to Stockholm for a long time.
The jury's motivation for the award to Winter's Bone: by unanimous decision, the jury surrendered to a world so fully described by the director and a protagonist's dilemma in a community seldom represented in America. Through her heroine, the director paints an original portrait of a matriarchy who, by turns, warns, punishes, and ultimately offers an unlikely deliverance. The story and performances worked together to realize an uncompromised vision.
The best actress award went to Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. The jury's motivation for the award: She contains multitudes. Hardened by an independence gained much too soon in life, this actress skillfully explores the unyielding territory patrolled by modern drugs, rudimentary survival, and an ironclad matriarchy. She is, by turns, both subtle and ferocious – and this actress made the powerful choice of always being guided by a wounded and overwhelming love.
Debra Granik was present during the festival at a special seminar entitled Found: Women Directors. The seminar was sponsored by WIFT (Women in Film and Television), Sweden. She was commended on making a film about ordinary female characters without resorting to the usual stereotypes. Granik said that the main actors were flown in but that most of the cast was from the Ozarks. She said that Jennifer Lawrence did a remarkable job.
One of the distinguishing hallmarks of the festival is the First Film Award given to a director who presents his or her first or second film. This year that award went to Phan Dang Di for Bi, Don't be Afraid. The film won best screenplay at this year's Cannes film festival.
Holly Hunter also presented the Visionary Award to Gus Van Sant along with actor Stellan Skarsgård on November 21. Swedish Actress Harriet Andersson, actress in several of Ingmar Bergman's films with a total of 92 film roles was given the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Other awards at the festival with 180 screenings from 50 countries; Best Screenplay David Michôd, Animal Kingdom; Best Actor George Pistereanu in If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle; Jameson Music Award Fred Avril, Magnus Börjesson and Six Drummers, Sound of Noise, Special Mention Ensemble Direction by Peter Mullan in Neds; Best Short Film Out of Loveby Birgitte Staermose; Short Film Special Mention Megaheavy by Fenar Ahmad. The 1 km film winner, Hugo Lilja, The Silver Audience Award: This is England ’86 by Shane Meadows and Waste Land by Lucy Walker.