Press release 29.03.2011: Arto Halonen's feature-film drama Princess has been awarded the Grand Prix Jury prize at the Cape Winelands Film Festival in South Africa as the best film of the festival.
Arto Halonen received the prize on Saturday at the festival's closing ceremony in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The festival jury's explained that it gave the grand prize to Princess for the following reasons: ”For its powerful, sensitive and cinematic depiction of a world of differences, for the filmmaker's ability to transcend a complex social issue with humour and humanity, and for the film's strong characters and moving performances – all done with careful detail to cinematography, set design, costumes, editing and music.”
The Cape Winelands Film Festival was organised for the 4th time, and is considered one of the most significant film festivals on the African continent. In its 2011 edition, International Film Guide has listed the festival as one of the most significant film events due to its quality programming. The festival's main competition consisted of 21 films from all over the world, including the multiple award-winning films 9:06 (Slovenia), Do Elephants Pray? (United Kingdom), Impossible Lyrics (Spain), Kosmos (Turkey/Bulgaria), Microphone (Egypt), Scheherazade Tell Me A Story (Egypti) and VIPs (Brazil).
In addition to best film, two more films were recognized. The prize for best direction went to Marko Raat's The Snow Queen (Estonia) and the jury's special mention to Paul Hills' Do Elephants Pray? (United Kingdom). The jury also gave awards for best documentary and short film, which had their own competition series at the festival. The jury for the festival's main competition consisted of the chairman and Professor of Film Language and Theory Joáo Luiz Vieira (Brazil), author and film director Zulfah Otto Sallies (South Africa) and film journalist Keoprasith Souvannavong (France).
Princess, a huge success in Finland with over 290 000 viewers, received its world premiere in August 2010 at Montréal's World Film Festival, an A-list competitive festival, in its competition series for feature length debut films. Since its premiere, the film has received the jury's best actress award (Katja Küttner) at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and the Jussi Award (Finnish Oscar) for best leading actress (Katja Küttner). The film was also nominated for Best Nordic Film at the Göteborg International Film Festival.
Princess was recently released for distribution on DVD and Blu-ray formats. The film's story is also featured in a book, written by Ilkka Raitasuo and Terhi Siltala and published in August 2010 by Like Publishing. Since its release, the book has quickly become one of the best-selling nonfiction books in Finland, with 30 000 copies sold to date.
Princess is based on real-life events and a real person. Cabaret dancer Anna Lappalainen, drifting from one foster home to another, ends up in psychiatric care. She claims to be "Princess," a member of the English royal family from Buckingham Palace. Although Princess herself numbers among the patients, helping others becomes her life's mission. Her court is comprised of her lady-in-waiting Christina von Heyroth, and a group of fellow patients. Her jurisdiction extends all the way to Kellokoski village and the manager of the local bank. From the psychiatric hospital, this broken woman finds her true home and builds a family. The film's roles feature the cream of Finland’s leading actors, including Katja Küttner (née Kukkola), Krista Kosonen, Samuli Edelmann, Pirkka-Pekka Petelius and Peter Franzén.
Princess was written by Arto Halonen, Pirjo Toikka and Paavo Westerberg. The film was shot by Hannu-Pekka Vitikainen, edited by Tuuli Kuittinen, art directed by Jukka Uusitalo, the music composed by Tuomas Kantelinen and the costumes designed by Ritva Muikku.
Cape Winelands Film Festival website:
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Vilhelmiina Vilhunen, Art Films production AFP Ltd