Ukrainian documentary “Dad’s Lullaby” and Romania’s “Between Revolutions” won the Docu Talent Awards, chosen from a field of nine documentary features from Central and Eastern Europe, at the Sarajevo Film Festival on Monday.

The Docu Talent Award for the most promising project went to “Dad’s Lullaby” (pictured, above), directed and produced by Lesia Diak. It tells the story of a Ukrainian veteran who returns home burnt out and traumatized from war but hoping to find peace for himself and his family. The jury described it as “a heartfelt depiction of a life under impossible circumstances,” adding: “Such a personal story is a valuable way to understand the scars of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.”

The DAFilms.com Distribution Award, which covers international VOD release for two years on DAFilms.com, went to “Between Revolutions” (pictured, below), which is directed by Vlad Petri and produced by Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan. The archive-constructed film tells the story of two women from Romania and Iran who become friends during their medical studies in Bucharest, and whose friendships endure during the tumultuous period of their countries’ respective revolutions.

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Courtesy of Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival

Describing it as “a true international co-production [that] uses a unique method of letter-reading to express a friendship that survives revolutions, regimes and time itself,” the jury said the film “has relevance to a world that needs female solidarity as much as ever today.”

Projects from Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine made it to the final selection of Docu Talents from the East, which spotlights films of outstanding artistic merit that are slated for a theatrical release in the next 12 months.

Curated by the Ji.hlava Intl. Documentary Film Festival, the event has been a launch pad for documentaries from both renowned and emerging directors such as Laila Pakalniņa, Vladimir Mansky, Bartek Konopka, Piotr Stasik, Peter Kerekes, Dmitrii Kalashnikov and Helena Třeštíková. Films presented at Docu Talents in the past had world and international premieres at major film festivals including in Cannes, Berlin, Locarno, Rotterdam and Sundance.

Marek Hovorka, director of Ji.hlava, said: “All of the selected films do not only explore the phenomena of our day and age, but also ask questions about how our choices shape our own future — whether as an individual, a particular social group or an entire society.”

Ji.hlava representatives in Sarajevo also presented the findings of this year’s East West Index, an exclusive survey among key European documentary film festivals that the Czech festival has been conducting since 2019.

The survey showed that most festivals have adopted a hybrid format in the past 12 months, with the total number of titles screened on the rise — a hopeful indicator that the pandemic-fueled slump of 2020 will not be a permanent state of affairs. Those numbers, however, are yet to return to pre-pandemic highs: just three festivals screened more documentary films in their most recent edition than in 2019.

The representation of Eastern European films in Western Europe and vice versa, however, remains very unbalanced. “While Eastern European festivals screen almost half of the European films produced in Western Europe, the reverse is only 15% – less than one in six European films screened by Western European festivals is from the Eastern European region,” said Hovorka.

During the award ceremony, Ji.hlava representatives also revealed the names of the Emerging Producers 2023 (see the full list here). The program selected 17 up-and-coming European documentary film producers for networking, educational and promotional support during two sessions – one at Ji.hlava in October and the second at the Berlin Film Festival next year. Participants will be accompanied by a producer from Qatar, this year’s guest country.