“Our School” won the Sterling award for top U.S. feature at the AFI-Discovery Silverdocs documentary film festival in Silver Spring, Md., announced Saturday.
Shot over the course of four years, the film follows the attempt to integrate isolated rural Roma (or gypsy) children into the mainstream school system of Romania.
The prize, which went to directors Mona Nicoara and Miruna Coca-Cozma, is accompanied by a $5,000 cash award.
“The cinematic quality of this film, the filmmaker’s vision and power of the story’s core issue impressed the jury, revealing an intimate depiction of a marginalized and underrepresented community, whose voice is seldom heard,” the jury said. “The filmmaker brings to light a timely human rights issue with compassion and intimacy.”
Special jury mentions went to “The Bully Project,” directed by Lee Hirsch, which follows five children and their families over one school year as their lives are affected in different ways by bullying, and “When the Drum Is Beating,” directed by Whitney Dow, which follows Septentrional, a popular Haitian band.
The Sterling Award for world feature went to “Family Instinct,” directed by Andris Gauja, which explores a Latvian household’s incestuous relationship. A Special Jury Mention went to “Position Among the Stars,” directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich as the conclusion of his three-part portrait of Indonesia as seen through the eyes of one family living in the slums of Jakarta.
The Sterling Award for Best Short Film was given to “Guanape Sur,” directed by J nos Richter, which explores a barren island off the coast of Peru that is the breeding ground for thousands of sea birds. The prize is accompanied by a $2,500 cash award.
An honorable mention went to “Still Here,” directed by Alex Camilleri, about a man living with HIV for over two decades.