At this weekend’s closing ceremony on the stage of the Grand Théâtre Lumière, the jury of the Festival de Cannes gathered to announce the 74th annual winners of this most prestigious film festival. Film alumni Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović ’17 and Frank Graziano ’18 were awarded the Camera d’Or for Murina, and alumna Jasmin Freitas Tenucci ’20 was given a Special Jury Mention for her short film, Céu de Agosto (August Sky).
Murina, co-written by Kusijanović and Graziano and directed by Kusijanović, follows a small family made up of young mother Nela, teenaged Julija, and strict father Ante. The family’s world on a Croatian island is rocked by the visit of an old family friend. While Ante is absorbed in a land deal, Nela and Julija must deal with their complex relationships to the foreigner’s presence in their home.
Kusijanović, who gave birth to her first child over the weekend, was represented by Graziano at the awards ceremony. According to Graziano, “Simply being there in the room was a dream come true in itself. Even after having seen all the photographers, and having stepped outside to catch my breath, I still couldn’t believe what I had there in my hand. This week has been a fairy-tale for Antoneta. Her film came to Cannes, she has had her first child, and now she has won the Caméra d’Or. So much emotion, and a lot of pride.”
The award was presented by Mélanie Thierry, President of the Caméra d’Or, who said, “Films are a passport to the world. They whisk you off around the globe. Although the urges, the preferences, the perspectives differ, there are themes that come back again and again, such as family, political issues, women’s empowerment. Murina draws on myth and goddesses, and there’s something quite dazzling, mysterious and poetic about it. [Kusijanović] shoots the seabed in a way that has never before been shown. We were spellbound by her film, and we all felt the same about it. It felt innately right.”
Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic is a writer-director born in Dubrovnik, based in New York. Her short, Into the Blue, was nominated for a Student Academy Award, and won awards at the Berlin International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Oberhausen Film Festival, and the Festival de Premier Plans, Angers, among many others. Murina is Antoneta’s first feature film, developed with support from the Résidence du Festival Cannes, Cinéfondation, First Films First by the Goethe-Institut, and Jerusalem Film Lab. She holds an MA from Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb and an MFA in screenwriting and directing from Columbia University in New York. Antoneta is an alumna of the Berlinale Talent Lab, Sarajevo Talent Lab, La Femis Producing Atelier, and the Marcie Bloom Fellowship.
Frank Graziano is a New York-based screenwriter and director whose films explore stories of the contemporary American city. He is the creator of the documentary series Feel My Pain, which follows four of New York’s most notorious gangsters of the 1990s as they prepare for a stage play about their lives. Graziano is also a founding partner of Unwashed Films and holds an MFA in directing from Columbia University.
The short film, Céu de Agosto (August Sky) also took home an award. Céu de Agosto was co-written and directed by Tenucci, with fellow alumni collaborators Saim Sadiq ’19 (co-writer) Kári Úlfsson ’20 (producer), Fernanda Frotté ’17 (editor) and Brúsi Ólason ’20 (editor). The short film follows a heavily pregnant nurse whose rising levels of anxiety result in a magnetic attraction to a Pentecostal church member. The film was given a Special Jury Mention after being shortlisted for the Short Film Palme d’Or from over 3700 submissions to the selection committee.