“Closeness,” a debut of 26-year-old Balagov, is set in 1998 in the director’s home city of Nalchik

“Closeness” by Russian film director Kantemir Balagov, along with Robin Campillo’s “BPM (Beats Per Minute)” and Pedro Pinho’s “The Nothing Factory,” won International Critics’ Prizes at the Cannes Festival on Saturday.

The FIPRESCI Jury awarded three prizes: two in the Official Selection (one for the Competition and one for “Un Certain Regard”) and a third one for the “Directors Fortnight”.

The International Critics Prize for best film in competition went to Robin Campillo’s “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” while “Closeness” was nominated for the “Un Certain Regard” prize. “The Nothing Factory,” the feature debut of Portugal’s Pedro Pinho, won the “Directors Fortnight” prize.

“Closeness,” a debut of 26-year-old Balagov, is set in 1998 in the director’s home city of Nalchik. The plot centers around the life of a local Jewish community which Balagov says is based on a story he heard from his father and other residents of Nalchik.

“In late 90s, a young man and his bride, both of Jewish origin, are kidnapped. The abductors demand a ransom, so huge that the family has to sell their business and turn to the Jewish community for help,” Balagov told TASS.

“This issue is crucial for the multinational North Caucasus region, but was never addressed in cinema. We attempted to show the life of the Jewish community in Nalchik, to show the difference in mentalities – Russian, Caucasus, Jewish.”

According to the director, “closeness is when you are immersed in yourself to the point when there is no place for another person in your soul.”

“On the other hand, closeness is the lack of space,” he continued. “In the family, on one tiny spot of land – everywhere you come across other people with their rules and laws, and you crave for air and freedom. I tried to evoke this feeling of closeness and lack of space in the viewer by all means, including light, sound and editing, to make every frame appear crammed.”

The awards by the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) are announced one day before the official announcement of Cannes Festival’s 2017 Palme d’Or winners on May 28. The prizes do not always coincide with those selected by the Cannes international official jury, headed by Pedro Almodovar.