Seventeen awards went in all to a total 16 recipients with major winners addressing some of the most relevant issues of the current times — gender abuse and plurality, lockdown, China — filtered through often highly personal prisms.
Such is the case of “The Vanishing,” from Senegalese Berlin Fipresci winner Rama Thiaw (“The Revolution Won’t Be Televised”), which took the Visions Sud Est Award. Regarded as the festival’s most important industry trophy, it is the only plaudit to take in titles in both of the doc festival’s main industry strands: its VdR-Pitching section for projects and its VdR-Work in Progress showcase.
Thiaw begins her documentary remembering a dream about her own mother, Mariama, who disappeared in August 2012 after returning from Paris to Dakar. A visual letter and homage to her mother, a political activist, “The Vanishing” expands to tackle issues of racism, colonialism and misogyny in order to tell the plight of modern Senegalese women.
At a ceremony where prizes were spread widely, only one title won two awards: “Yoga Village,” a politically pointed portrait of the plight of China’s poor. They were weighty prizes at that: the HEAD-Geneva Post-Production Award and the RTS Award, the latter consisting in a pre-buy of TV rights by Switzerland’s French-language public broadcaster.
The two awards went to a doc feature project that plays like Ealing comedy meets China’s 2016 13th Five-Year Plan in the tale of the charismatic Lu Wenzhen, a former actor, who is dispatched to Yugouliang, a remote village in China’s Hebei province, to eradicate poverty in the hamlet.
Rather than upgrade agricultural systems, he decides to transform the smiling but stout land laborers, average age 65, into subtle-limbed yoga specialists, morphing Yugouliang into a yoga tourist hub.
The VDR-Pitching Award went to “Science Fiction,” directed and conceived by Ezequiel Yanco, a film that melds the set up of “Rear Window” and influence of Argentina’s magnificent fantasy fiction tradition in order to capture the collective psychology of COVID-19 lockdown: the “sensation of living in a dystopic world where fiction and reality mix constantly and how fantasy has become part of daily life,” as Yanco put it at a VdR Pitch on Friday.
“Transfariana,” from France’s Joris Lachaise, took, arguably, the biggest prize on offer for pix-in-post presented at Visions du Réel: the VdR-Work in Progress Award.
Described by the jury member Roberto Minervini as “a humanistic film which captures enduring love,” it turns on the marriage in jail of a FARC leader Jaison and trans woman Laura. The relationship affronts the FARC base, until its high command decides to embrace the LGBTQ cause. A rare take on the Colombian peace process, “Transfariana” also reflects on how historical change can occur, with individuals acting to accelerate “the movement of history that determines their actions,” according to Lachaise.
VISIONS DU REEL 2021 INDUSTRY AWARDS
Visions Sud Est Award
“The Vanishing” (Rama Thiaw, Senegal, France)
“Science Fiction”(Ezequiel Yanco, Argentina)
The Party Film Sales Award
“King Coal,” (Elaine McMillion Sheldon, U.S.)
“Yoga Village,” (Rongfei Guo, China)
HEAD-Geneva Post-Production Award
“Yoga Village” (Rongfei Guo, China)
Cannes Doc Award
“The Last Year of Darkness,” (Ben Mullinkosson, China, U.S.)
Thessaloniki Documentary Festival Award
“But Dear Lord Why?,” (Rati Tsiteladze, Georgia)
DOK Leipzig/DOK Industry Networking Award
“Malqueridas,” (Tana Gilbert, Chile)
VDR-WORK IN PROGRESS AWARDS
VdR-Work In Progress Award
“Transfariana” (Joris Lachaise, France)
“Blue Island,” (Tze Woon Chan, Hong Kong, China, Japan)
Raggioverde Subtitling Award
“Another Spring,” (Mladen Kovačević, Serbia)
“About Everything There Is to Know,” (Sofía Velázquez, Peru)
DAE Encouragement Award
“The Home,” (Jessie Zinn, Chase Musslewhite, South Africa, U.S.)
“We, Students!” (Rafiki Fariala, Central African Republic, France, Democratic Republic of Congo)
OPENING SCENES AWARDS
IDFA Spotlight Award
“Don’t Hesitate to Come Home for a Visit, Mum,” (Ana Artemyeva, Belgium, Hungary, Portugal, Russia)
“Seeking Aline,” (Rokhaya Marieme Blade, Switzerland, Senegal)
META Cultural Foundation Award
“Not Already Yet,” (Monise Nicodemos, Brazil)