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Ji.hlava Docu Fest: Awards Celebrate Truth and Respect

Although some serious points were made, the mood was light and even jovial at the closing night of the 22nd Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival. Packed into Kino DKO II, a crowd of filmmakers and producers saw the awards handed out in the presence of a live 15-piece band that blasted out the opening bars of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” as the winners took to the stage. Handing out the award for Opus Bonum – a prize given, unusually, by a single juror – Poland’s Krzysztof Zanussi, in town for a masterclass, joked that being the lone arbiter “was a special experience – all night I was fighting with myself.”

Many winners – like “Vacancy” director Alexandra Kandy Longuet, who accepted via video – kept their speeches short and thanked the festival, their subject and their colleagues, while Jean-Luc Godard, winner of the Contribution to World Cinema Award, sent over a few baffling seconds of what appeared to be a stretch of sidewalk. It was left to Slovakian co-presenter Tereza Novotna, working alongside Czech director Jan Foukal, to inject an air of solemnity by referring the the deaths of 28 journalists this year. “Truth is really under threat today,” she noted.

This theme of truth and freedom was picked up Ukrainian “Heavy Metal” director Eugene Golovanevsky, who used his platform to raise awareness of fellow Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, who is still in jail in Russia, on spurious charges, after a period of hunger strike. “Owner’s Portrait” director Joaquín Maito went further by commenting on the rise of far right-wing parties in Latin America, notably in Brazil, where Jair Bolsonaro was just elected. “The lack of freedom is very bad for art,” he said. “Like all artists, we should be trying to fight for freedom.”

The final award of the night, the Audience Award, went to “Vote for Kibera” by Czech director Martin Páv, a study of life in a giant slum in Nairobi. Acknowledging the rise of fear and intolerance around the world, Páv noted that winning the Audience Award proved to him that there was still a glimmer of hope for humanity. “Our fear is often overblown, baseless,” he said, “and for me this [award] is a show of respect for the people in Nairobi.”

Overall, the awards capped a good year for the festival, which drew a record attendance of more than 40,000 viewers. There were 5,270 accredited guests, including 1,185 film professionals, with a program that consisted of 327 films, 100 world premieres and 161 competition films divided into 11 sections. Festival director Marek Hovorka said: “I am happy that this year’s Ji.hlava has broken all its audience records. However, the energy, shared by both audience and authors, is even more important.”

The prizes went as follows:

Opus Bonum

Best World Documentary Film: “Vacancy” (Alexandra Kandy Longuet, Belgium)

Special mention: “Talks with TGM” (Jakub Červenka, Czech Republic/Slovakia)

Between The Seas

Best Central and East European Documentary Film: “Timebox” (Nora Agapi, Romania)

Special mention: “The Last Self-Portrait” (Marek Kuboš, Slovakia)

Between the Seas Student Film Competition

Winner: “A Well-Kept Secret” (Mihkel Oksmann, Estonia)

Special mention: “Heavy Metal” (Eugene Golovanevsky, Ukraine)

Czech Joy

Best Czech Documentary Film: “Enclosed World” (Karel Žalud, Czech Republic)

Special Mention: “Central Bus Station” (Tomáš Elšík, Czech Republic) and “Solos for Members of Parliament” (Tereza Bernátková, Czech Republic)

Student Jury Award: “Passengers” (Jana Boršková, Czech Republic)

Fascinations

Best Experimental Documentary Film: “Blending and Blinding” (Richard Tuohy, Australia)

Special Mention: “Soar” (Patrick Bokanowski, France)

Fascinations: Exprmntl.Cz

Best Czech Experimental Documentary Film: “Apart” (Diana Cam Van Nguyen, Czech Republic)

Special Mention: “Puddles, I Don’t Know” (Anna Petruželová, Czech Republic)

First Lights

Best Feature-Length Documentary Debut Film​: “Owner’s Portrait” (Joaquín Maito, Argentina)

Special mention: “Boy of War” (Cyprien Clément-Delmas and Igor Kosenko, Germany/Czech Republic)

Student Jury Award: “Boy of War” (Cyprien Clément-Delmas and Igor Kosenko, Germany/Czech Republic)

A Testimony on Politics

Best Testimony on Politics: “The Silence of Others” (Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar, U.S., Spain)

Special mention: “Still Recording” (Ghiath Ayoub, Syria/France/Lebanon/Qatar/Germany)

A Testimony on Knowledge

Best Testimony on Knowledge: “The Truth about Killer Robots” (Maxim Pozdorovkin)

A Testimony on Nature

Best Testimony on Nature: “Welcome to Sodom” (Florian Weigensamer and Christian Krönes, Austria)

Audience Award

“Vote for Kibera” (Martin Páv, Czech Republic)

Contribution to World Cinema Award

Jean-Luc Godard

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