Documentaries about the conflict in Ukraine, the Cuban migrant situation and the Palestinian refugee crisis were among top winners at MiradasDoc, Spain’s foremost documentary film festival which wrapped its 15th edition on March 12.
Based in Tenerife, Canary Islands, the festival was an in-person event running March 4-12, while its market (March 8-11) remained virtual for the second consecutive year.
The best international documentary prize went to “Option Zero” (“La Opcion Cero”) by Cuban filmmaker Marcel Beltran while the best debut feature award was extended to “Trenches” by French journalist Loup Bureau who has covered the Arab Spring in Egypt, the Syrian War and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in the Donbas region.
“Trenches” follows the intrepid young men and women who are fighting Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region. In a video message sent to the festival, Bureau said: “The situation now in Ukraine is still catastrophic and I’ve been trying to reach my friends all around the country but it’s complicated as some have gone to fight and others have already died; everyone I know in this country is either fighting or fleeing.”
Bureau, who has covered Ukraine for the past eight years, said the prize was the only piece of good news he’d received in the past two weeks. Expressing his fears that the conflict was going to last for months, a visibly moved Bureau commented: “’’Trenches’ somehow explains how we got into this situation. The Ukrainians are paying a very high price for being a free and independent nation.”
“I think we Europeans need to do everything possible to help them and not look away,” he asserted, pointing out that what’s happening in Ukraine has a vital bearing on the future of Europe.
The Cuban, Brazilian and Colombian co-production “Option Zero” turns on the Cuban migrants who have been traversing Central America to reach the U.S. and are in limbo at a refugee camp in Panama. Beltran was given access to their cell phone videos that captured more than 100 hours of their journey through the jungles of Colombia. These videos are punctuated with Beltran’s footage of the camp, contrasting their harrowing journey and the insecurities of their lives at the camp, where they could easily be deported back to Cuba.
Expressing his gratitude to the festival and the jury in a video message, Beltran dedicated his prize to the Cuban migrants “who continue in their transit, their lives and their experiences” and thanked them “for their friendship that made this documentary possible.”
“Little Palestine, Diary of a Siege,” by Abdallah Al-Khatib, which snagged a special mention in the best debut feature category, delves into another refugee crisis. This centers on Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in the world from 1957 to 2018, located in the district of Yarmouk in Damascus, Syria. When the Syrian revolution broke out, the regime of Bashar Al-Assad suspected that the camp served as a refuge for the resistance and laid siege on it from 2013 onwards, depriving it of food, medicine and electricity. Al-Khatib was born in Yarmouk and lived there until he was expelled by Daesh in 2015.
The best short film prize went to “Love, Dad” by Vietnamese-Czech filmmaker Diana Cam Van Nguyen, which delves into the relationship between a child and a parent. The short participated in the Anidoc Sur Lab in 2020.
Meanwhile, the MiradasDoc Market reported record participation on its second virtual run, which allowed for more attendees from around the world.
A variety of prizes were doled out among the selected international projects in development, led by Uganda’s “The Woman who Poked the Leopard” by Patience Nitumwesiga, which centers on medical anthropologist, queer rights activist and feminist Stella Nyanzi who, despite threats to her life, combines radical discourtesy and traditional resistance tactics to confront oppression.
XV MiradasDoc Winners
BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE AWARD
“Option Zero,” (Marcel Beltran, Cuba, Brazil, Colombia)
BEST FIRST FEATURE
“Trenches,” (Loup Bureau, France)
BEST FIRST FEATURE, SPECIAL MENTION
“Little Palestine, Diary of a Siege” (Abdallah Al-Khatib, Lebanon, France, Qatar)
“Love, Dad,” (Diana Cam Van Nguyen, Czech Republic)
BEST SHORT FILM, SPECIAL MENTION
“In a Flow of Words” (Eliane Esther Bots, Netherlands)
BEST SPANISH SHORT FILM
“Outtakes” (“Descartes”) (Concha Barquero & Alejandro Alvarado, Spain)
MIRADASDOC MARKET PRIZES
MIRADASDOC DEVELOPMENT AWARD
“The Woman Who Poked the Leopard” (Patience Nitumwesiga, Uganda, South Africa)
“The Vanished” (Sophie Chevalier & Omar Zeballos, Chile)
“Looking for Words” (Joel Stängle, Colombia)
DURBAN FILM MARKET PRIZE
“The Camera Never Cries” (Elsadig Abdelgayoum & Abuzar Adam, Sudan)
“Looking for Words” (Joel Stängle, Colombia)
“Un Hogar Sin Armarios” (Eduardo Cubillo Blasco, Canary Islands, Spain)
“Minha Carne Sabe” (Zica Pires & Simone Giovine, Brazil)
“Afromilonga” (Alejandro Espolsino, María Eugenia Lombardi, Mawete Paciencia & Leticia Rodríguez Taboada, Argentina, Uruguay, Angola, Kenya )
“La Fábula de la Tortuga y la Flor” (Carolina Campo Lupo, Uruguay)
“Carmela y los Caminantes” (Esteban Coloma & Luis Herrera R, Ecuador)
“Carabalí” (Medhin Tewolde Serrano, Mexico)