Dornaz Hajiha's "Like a Fish on the Moon" wins the Transylvania Film Festival

Dornaz Hajiha’s “Like a Fish on the Moon” wins the Transylvania Film Festival

Like a fish on the moonthe first feature film from Iranian writer-director Dornaz Hajiha, won the Transylvania Trophy for best feature film at this year’s festival, marking the first time in the event’s 22-year history that the Transylvanian International Film Festival’s top accolade has gone to a female director.

The film follows new parents who are forced to adjust when their seemingly healthy son suddenly stops talking.

“The film we chose impressed us with the originality of its premise, the power of its performances and the intelligence with which it explored very difficult subjects,” Mexican director Michel Franco, president of the jury, said in a statement. “The director has demonstrated great attention to detail and an extraordinary and singular vision. We were also impressed by the script, which captured the often conflicting pressures of parenthood, the brutality of devotion. It’s a film that resonated long after it ended.

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By accepting the prize, which comes with a cash grant of $11,000 (€10,000), Hajiha said she was glad the judging panel understood the film’s message. “I think you’re a five-year-old or a grown man in your 50s, the pressure to do things you don’t want to do is terrifying.”

Like a fish on the moon star Sepidar Tari also won the festival’s Best Performance Award, presented ex-aequo, alongside Nacho Quesada, star of the Argentinian thriller The Barbarians.

The Best Director award at the 2023 Transylvania International Film Festival, including the $3,800 (€3,500) cash prize, went to Brazilian director Carolina Markowicz for her dark comedy Coal about a rural family that hosts a mysterious guest who turns out to be a highly wanted drug lord. Finnish writer-director Tia Kuovo took home the Special Jury Prize and $1,600 (€1,500) for her first feature film Time for the familya bittersweet comedy about a dysfunctional family told over the Christmas holidays.

The winner of the documentary competition What’s Up, Doc, now in its second edition, was Hell69 by Theo Montoya, a hybrid documentary that shows a dark portrait of the younger generation facing violence in the Colombian capital of Medellín.

Moldovan director Ion Borș won the festival’s Audience Award for Carbona tragicomedy about the troubled years of the conflict in Transnistria in the early 1990s, while Tudor Giurgiu’s thriller Freedomset in the last days of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s regime, it was voted the most popular Romanian film.

At the closing ceremony, the 1,000 spectators of the historic National Theater in Cluj applauded Australian actor Geoffrey Rush, as well as US director and screenwriter Oliver Stone, who both received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Romanian actor Horațiu Mălăele received the festival’s Award of Excellence for his career in film and theater.