With tongue in cheek but sincere curiosity I asked whether the jury felt sorry for me…

Award winners at the Russian International Horror Film Festival posing with their trophies last Sunday

I knew already back in March that the Russian International Horror Film Festival was going to give my short film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” an award.

I had acquired my visa to travel to Russia with my husband and co-producer Ed Elder, and our plane tickets and air bnb in Moscow were booked, and festival director Victor Boulankin, perhaps in an effort to make sure I stick around past my screening and Q&A, hinted that I would be receiving an award at the closing ceremony, without telling me what award exactly; and then exacted a promise that I keep that bit of information to myself for now.

“For now” would end up being eight months. Thank you, Covid 19!

As posted previously, the pandemic forced the postponement of the festival. But it finally took place last weekend. I would not be able to attend, sadly (Thank you, Covid 19!), so I asked Victor Boulankin over email what award “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” would receive. He responded:

Yes. The jury sympathy awards

I will my way send it to you by post

Or next time in March if you attend

I thanked Victor and chose the post option for receiving my award. Then I asked: “The Jury Sympathy Awards?  Is that the name of the award?”

I received a one word response:


I pressed on:

“I’m not sure I understand what that means in terms of an award.  I wonder if something is not coming through in translation.  Sympathy means feeling sorry for somebody, or having empathy, your heart goes out to them.  Is the Jury feeling sympathy for the protagonist in Tell-Tale?

Is there a meaning in the original Russian name for the award that relates to the film in a way I am not understanding?”

This was the next email response:


Jury sympathy prize
Sorry for my English))

At this point it occurred to me that rather than communicating with someone who spoke English as a second language, it may be I am communicating with someone using a translate app to turn my English language emails into Russian and his Russian language responses back to English before sending them back to me. That app had been helpful for me when mass emails in Russian to all festival participants wound up in my gmail Inbox. A simple click on the translate button turned those cyrillic missives into something I could understand. So far Victor and I had been conversing swimmingly over email. But it appears the subtleties involved in figuring out “Jury Sympathy Award” were beyond the translate function.

I had this mental image of the jury feeling sorry for me.

Poor kid. You tried. But this is a hot mess. Our sympathies are with you…

Victor tried to clarify:

Sympathy means sympathy

I don’t know other variant to describe

It means very good attitude of the jury

I joked that the jury having a good attitude towards me does look better than the jury feeling sorry for me.

Still, I had to get to the bottom of this:

“I’ve never heard anything like it. I’m not sure what to compare it to.  Is it similar to an “Honorable Mention” prize?  Or a “Special Jury Prize”?  Like a special general achievement prize you give that’s separate from the “Best Picture” or “Best Actor” or “Best Screenplay” prizes?” 

That question seemed to get the right operative word through the translation app. Victor resonded:

Special Jury Prize, yes

“OK.  Thank you very much.  And thank the jury too.  Sorry I can’t be there in person to accept it.”

So there we have it. “The Tell-Tale Heart won a Special Jury Prize at the Russian International Horror Film Festival. It’s quite an honor.

Yet I will always, with special tender feelings, think of it as the Jury Sympathy Award.

Headline from the festival website: “10th ANNIVERSARY FILM FESTIVAL “DROP” HAS ENDED WITH THE AWARDING CEREMONY”, as translated by Google’s “Russian to English”.

And below: “On October 25 in the cinema “Formula Kino EUROPA” the results of the 10th anniversary film festival “Drop” were summed up. During the festival, viewers in Moscow cinemas could watch more than 20 full-length genre films and 12 blocks made up of short films. The competition program ended with the demonstration of the film “Dead December” after the awards ceremony. The event was opened with a welcoming speech by the President and General Producer of the Festival, Honored Artist of Russia Viktor Bulankin.”

From further down the same webpage:

“Also, a number of filmmakers will receive their awards in absentia due to the inability to come to the festival due to the pandemic and closed borders, namely:

1. Film “Stalag III”, directed by Jason Rogan, USA / Belarus / South Africa

2. “New Woman” film – directed by Benjamin Noah, Canada

3. Film “Ecdysis” – directed by Tomo Sigiura, Japan

4. Film “Death December” – producers Dominic Saxl, Ivo Scheloske

5. The film “The Tell-Tale Story”, directed by Danny Ashkenasi

6. The film “Mother of Chernobyl”, Alexander Shuryepov”

UPDATE 11/3 – Victor just sent me a picture of my award certificate and statuette. He elaborated that “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” received a “Special Jury Prize” for “Best Short Film”:

Update – 12/2/20 – Guess what arrived in the mail today…

About dannyashkenasi

I'm a composer with over 40 years experience creating music theater. I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer, teacher and general enthusiast for the arts.
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  1. howlevmuso says:

    Een old days, prize for Seempaty Avard vould be two-year no-expense-paid wacation to artist re-education kemp een Siberia! But now yes certificatsky vit carved vooden – ees dot a flame? Pah!

    Liked by 1 person

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