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Tanaka Toshihiko’s ‘Rei’ Wins Rotterdam Tiger Award, ‘Flathead’ and ‘Kiss Wagon’ Take Jury Prizes

Tanaka Toshihiko’s “Rei” was awarded the Tiger Award, the top prize of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, on Friday. Toshihiko’s feature debut chronicles a woman in her early 30s employed in a corporate job in Tokyo who meets a deaf landscape photographer living deep in the mountains of Hokkaido.

Toshihiko worked with a cast and crew of mostly-non professionals and students and not only directed “Rei,” but also produced, edited and acted in the film. He takes home a prize worth €40,000 given by a jury comprised of “Sweet Dreams” director Ena Sendijarević, producer and historian Marco Müller, “Ebola Syndrome” director and screenwriter Herman Yau, pioneering “Bless Their Little Hearts” filmmaker Billy Woodberry and producer Nadia Turincev.

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The jury called Toshihiko a “burgeoning film director who chose to develop his debut film in a loose and unbounded environment,” and whose strength lies in “a collaborative environment centered on the actors.”

Two Special Jury Awards were awarded to Midhun Murali’s “Kiss Wagon” and Jaydon Martin’s “Flathead.” The jury deemed Murali’s experimental mixed media film blending handmade visuals and video extracts to tell the story of a parcel service worker on a mission to deliver a package to a mysterious VIP “hypnotic, bewildering and beautifully weird.”

“Kiss Wagon” was also awarded the FIPRESCI Award by a jury of international film journalists who stated their unanimous decision was inspired by the film’s “bold defying of cinematic conventions,” adding: “With its intricate collage of styles, genres, and themes, and elaborate, artisanal, very personal craft, it reminded us that cinema is a limitless space for play and invention, which constantly renews itself.”

Jaydon Martin’s feature debut combines fiction and documentary to present a “compassionate portrait of blue-collar life in Australia” and has been praised by the jury as a film with “calm but touching execution” and a “naturalistic and realistic film at its best.” The cast was described as “exceptionally impressive.”

The festival’s Big Screen Competition, which aims to bridge the gap between popular, classic and arthouse cinema gave the VPRO Big Screen Award to Oktay Baraheni’s “The Old Bachelor.” Baraheni’s sophomore feature follows two middle-aged brothers living with their bullying father in an Iran weighed down by a struggling economy.

The jury, consisting of Samina Khan, Sylvie de Leeuwe, Lisa van der Loos, Marcos Silva and Ella de Bruijn, said the film is a “masterclass in storytelling” and “a deeply visceral cinematic experience that takes you captive along with its characters as their world encloses around Them.” On top of a cash prize of €30,000 prize, “The Old Bachelor” received a guaranteed theatrical release in the Netherlands and will be broadcast on Dutch TV by VPRO and NPO.

The NETPAC Award for the best Asian feature film and given by a jury from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema went to Ishan Shukla’s “Schirkoa: In Lies We Trust,” while the Youth Jury Award selected by a panel of young local film lovers went to Lillah Halla’s “Levante.”

Full list of winners below:
TIGER COMPETITION
Tiger Award to “Rei” by Tanaka Toshihiko (Japan)
Special Jury Award to “Kiss Wagon” by Midhun Murali (India)
Special Jury Award to “Flathead” by Jaydon Martin (Australia)

BIG SCREEN COMPETITION
VPRO Big Screen Award to “The Old Bachelor” by Oktay Baraheni (Iran)

FIPRESCI AWARD
The FIPRESCI Award to “Kiss Wagon” by Midhun Murali (India)

NETPAC AWARD
NETPAC Award to “Schirkoa: In Lies We Trust” by Ishan Shukla (India, France, Germany)

YOUTH JURY AWARD
NETPAC Award to “Levante” by Lillah Halla (Brazil, France, Uruguay)

FURTHER AWARDS
The Audience Award and the IFFR Youth Jury Award will be announced on Sunday with the festival’s close.

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