Philipp Yuryev’s ‘The Whaler Boy’ wins top prize at Transilvania Film Festival

Philipp Yuryev’s “The Whaler Boy,” which took home the Venice Days award at last year’s Venice Film Festival, won the top prize at the Transilvania Film Festival on Saturday, according to

The jury praised the Russian director’s feature debut, an offbeat story of a teenage whale hunter on the Bering Strait who sets out to meet a webcam model, for being “beautiful and meticulous in its sense of time and place” while also being “really resonant and contemporary at the same time as being classic.”

Yuryev, who had not attended the festival, was hastily flown to Cluj from Moscow on Saturday morning, telling the audience: “It is really something surprising to be here, and to have a chance to visit this place and to see you all.” He dedicated the award to the remote whale-hunting community in Chukotka where the movie was filmed, as well as to its young leads Vladimir Onokhov and Vladimir Lyubimtsev, noting: “They made the film.”

During his acceptance speech Yuryev’s microphone briefly cut out, with the audience stepping in to fill the silence with sustained applause. Afterward fest founder Tudor Giurgiu deadpanned: “That didn’t happen at all in these 20 years. It had to happen now.”

Guests arriving at the closing ceremony in Cluj’s historic Union Square – many of whom were attending their first live festival since the start of the coronavirus pandemic – were greeted by the raucous sounds of the Damian & Brothers folk band, accompanied by singer Mădălina Pavăl. After a week of balmy summer weather for a festival that’s typically held in the spring, a brief downpour Saturday afternoon brought some relief to the picturesque medieval city.

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