“In Her Hands,” a Netflix documentary produced by Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, has won the 18th Camden Intl. Film Festival’s audience award. While the in-person component of the Maine-based festival ended on Sept. 18, tallying audience award votes concluded today. Online screenings of the fest’s lineup are available until Sept. 25 to audiences across North America.
Filmed over a two year period, “In Her Hands” tells the story of Zarifa Ghafari, who at 26 became one of Afghanistan’s first female mayors and the youngest to ever hold the position. The film documents her fight for survival against the backdrop of her country’s accelerated unraveling as Western forces announce their retreat and the Taliban returns to power.
Directed by Tamana Ayazi and Marcel Mettelsiefen (“Watani: My Homeland”), “In Her Hands” premiered at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival on Sept. 9. Ayazi, who is a native of Afghanistan, escaped in 2021 after the Taliban took over. Now living in London, Ayazi attended CIFF.
The former secretary of state and her daughter Chelsea Clinton served as executive producers on the docu, the first nonfiction film from their HiddenLight Productions banner.
“When we had around 60 hours of footage, we contacted Propagate Production – one of the production companies on the film – and they had worked on another documentary with (the Clintons), so they contacted them about our film, and they were interested in collaborating,” said Ayazi following a screening of “In Her Hands” at the Maine festival. “I’m honored and grateful that they supported the project. It’s important to get attention back to Afghanistan. We need more people to support it, no matter if they are politicians, filmmakers, journalists – anything to support the film and the cause. If we don’t take action, we will all regret it.”
Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras, who attended CIFF with her Golden Lion-winning doc “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” who had previously criticized the Toronto and Venice film festivals for programming documentaries connected to Hillary Clinton due to her involvement “in the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Her issues with the backers of “In Her Hands” aside, she warmly greeted Ayazi at CIFF.
Poitras, along with “A Compassionate Spy” director Steve James and “Descendant” helmer Margaret Brown appeared at the fest to screen their respective films and celebrate the launch of the Diane Weyermann Fellowship at Points North. Weyermann, the former chief content officer at Participant and former director of the Sundance Institute’s documentary film program, died last October of cancer. The fellowship in Weyermann’s name will champion filmmakers producing cinematic feature documentaries that take artistic risks.
“I love what this festival is doing in terms of supporting filmmakers,” Poitras told Variety about her decision to attend CIFF for the first time. “Also coming together to support Diane and her legacy was important to me. In her last days, Diane was giving notes on my film and Steve and Margaret’s films. So, it’s really meaningful that this Fellowship will continue to support filmmakers the way that Diane did during her life. Any of us who have worked with Diane, and there are many, we have a debt to pay forward.”
James added, “It’s a great festival, but the launch of the fellowship made it extremely special.”
Also garnering CIFF 2022 awards were Kamar Ahmad Simon’s “Day After…,” which won the festival’s Harrell Award, and Ekaterina Selenkina’s “Detours,” which took home the Cinematic Vision prize.
The 19th Camden International Film Festival will be held September 14-17, 2023.