Ben Sharrock’s “Limbo” was named the best film at the closing event Tuesday of the International Film Festival & Awards Macao. Japanese auteur Koreeda Hirokazu was bestowed with the festival’s Spirit of Cinema honorary award.

The film follows a Syrian refugee in a remote Scottish island as he awaits his asylum application to be processed and his arm to heal allowing him to play his musical instrument. It was previously selected for the Cannes festival.

The IFFAM jury, headed by mainland Chinese director Ning Hao, made a unanimous decision before awarding the $60,000 prize to Sharrock, who also won the best screenplay award. “It was a thought-provoking piece of work, because of its in-depth exploration of society and also the relationship between culture and humanity. Combined with the director’s unique film language and a modern artistic style, it magically blends together and gives the audience unforgettable pleasure and enjoyment of all senses,” Ning said afterwards.

The competition section focuses on first and second films. “Limbo,” Sharrock’s second feature, beat other contenders including: “Back To The Wharf,” by Li Xiaofeng (Mainland China); “Black Light,” by Bae Jongdae (Korea); “The Cloud in Her Room,” by Zheng Lu Xinyuan (Hong Kong SAR, Mainland China); “Falling,” by Viggo Mortensen (U.S./Canada/Denmark); “Love Poem,” by William Wong (Hong Kong); “Servants,” by Ivan Ostrochovsky (Czech Republic); “Shorta,” by Frederik Louis Hviid and Anders Olholm (Denmark); “Spring Blossom,” by Suzanne Lindon (France); “Sweat,” by Magnus von Horn (Poland); and “Tragic Jungle,” by Yulene Olaizola (Mexico).

The festival, in its fifth year, shifted entirely online due to the impact of the coronavirus. It screened a total of 31 features in different sections and a selection of short films.

“It was a daunting challenge for the whole IFFAM team to take the festival online, but we are happy with the results and have received great feedback from the people of Macao and Hong Kong who have been enjoying the program. We hope that we can return to the cinemas next year for the sixth IFFAM,” said artistic director Mike Goodridge.

Koreeda said: “It is 25 years since I became a film director. Recently there have been many chances to receive these kinds of awards. Besides being ecstatic, I feel that my hard work has finally paid off. In the days to come, I hope to continue to create and produce more movies, and continue the spirit of creativity and hard work.”

IFFAM 2020 Prize winners
Best Film: “Limbo,” dir. Ben Sharrock
Best Director: Suzanne Lindon for “Spring Blossom”
Best Actor: Lance Henriksen in “Falling”
Best Actress: Magdalena Kolesnik in “Sweat”
Best Screenplay: Ben Sharrock for “Limbo”
Best Short Film: “Under” directed by Jiao Yue.