Stories of urban life under pressure dominated the 25th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival as the event wrapped Saturday with top honors going to Slovak director Barbora Sliepkova for “Lines,” called by the jury an “exceptional” approach to showing how “beauty, intimacy and space are intertwined” amid social and economic contradictions and connections.
“Lines” also took the prize for best debut and sound design by Michal Horvath along with $10,000, and was praised for its “complex and perfectly well crafted work.”
Main competition special mention went to “When You Are Close to Me,” a look at the lives of deaf and blind people by Italian director Laura Viezzoli, which the jury, including Syrian writer and filmmaker Orwa Al Mokdad and Romanian producer Anamaria Antoci, honored for its explorations of “sensitive and intimate space.”
Prizes for crucial non-directing work initiated this year went to Mexican director Tin Dirdamal for editing on “Dark Light Voyage,” while the cinematography prize went to Barbu Balasoiu for “You Are Ceausescu To Me.” The sound design winner, Michal Horvath, won for his creation of an “urban symphony” of sound and music in “Lines.”
Chinese indie docmaker and festival organizer Rikun Zhu won honors for the original approach for his story of a young Maoist artist who dreams of a better life in New York, “No Desire to Hide.”
Director Andrei Kutsila also took a special mention for his searing look at the repression of protestors in Belarus, “When Flowers Are Not Silent.”
The prize for best film from Central and Eastern Europe went to Romanian director Sebastian Mihailescu for his ironic treatment of recent history “You Are Ceausescu to Me” along with a prize of $3,652.
The doc “Heaven,” a chronicle of disabled children in a Chinese village facility directed by the duo Adela Spaljova and Tomas Etzler, won the fest audience prize, beating out some 120 competition films, 64 in world premieres and 36 in international or European premieres.
As the fest now moves into its two-week online phase, ending live screenings in the historic Czech town, once home to Gustav Mahler, home audiences will be taking in today winning films including Czech Joy competition champ “Brotherhood,” a Bosnian pastoral family microcosm by Czech Rep.-based Italian director Francesco Montagner.
The jury of the Testimonies section, focused on themes of change and crisis, granted the top prize to “How to Kill a Cloud” by Finnish director Tuija Halttunen, a look at ethical dilemmas highlighted by the work of meteorologist Hannele Korhonen.
Czech doc maestro Jana Sevcikova, known for carefully crafting lush and incisive films she works on for years from subjects ranging to persecuted Russian Christian cults to the aftermath of the 1988 Armenian earthquake, won the prize for contribution to world cinema. Speaking at the closing gala in the DKO cultural center, amid lights and cameras for a Czech TV broadcast, Sevcikova confessed she was near tears as she gave credit to her resourceful cameraman Jaromir Kacer “for staying with me all this time.”
The Silver Eye Award for the best feature doc in the East Silver Market, granted by the Institute of Documentary Film, went to director Sasha Kulak for “Mara,” while “Sounds of Weariness” won the short doc prize and special mention went to “Orpheus” by Vadim Kostrov, a look at filmmaking in modern Russia.
Each winner received a work of original art by digital innovator Federico Diaz, a graphic representation of words based on their emotional context – a fitting prize for a fest that has long embraced experimental work, debate, essay films, graphic art and sound design along with films that filmmakers themselves often say they are surprised to learn are considered documentaries.
Fest streaming runs through Nov. 3, offering access to more than 100 films in the Czech territory, alongside filmmaker interviews, tips and discussions from the Inspiration Forum – which includes speakers involved in social movements and innovation – and a master class with Russian director Vitaly Mansky, also honored with a Testimonies jury prize for “Gorbachev.Heaven,” his doc on the bold former Soviet leader.
Ji.hlava 25th edition winners
Opus Bonum main competition
Special mentions – “When You Are Close to Me,” “When Flowers Are Not Silent”
Editing – “Dark Light Voyage”
Cinematography – “You Are Ceausescu to Me”
Sound – “Lines”
Debut – “Lines”
Original approach – “No Desire to Hide”
Student jury – “Yoon”
Special mentions – “Ordeal,” “Preparations for Film T.”
Editing – “Out in Force”
Cinematography – “Brotherhood”
Sound – “Love, Dad”
Student jury award – “Leaving Beginnings Behind”
Central and Eastern Europe
“You Are Ceausescu to Me”
Fascinations experimental docs
“In and Out a Window”
“How to Kill a Cloud”
Special mentions – “From the Wild Sea,” “Dark Red Forest,” “Gorbachev.Heaven”
Contribution to World Cinema
Feature – “Mara”
Short – “Sounds of Weariness”
Special mention – “Orpheus”