Egyptian director Alaa Dajani’s “The Native Dance,” a documentary that tells the story of Younis Abdallah and his comrades who were among the 300,000 peasants conscripted into the Egyptian Labor Corps in 1917, many of whom were dispatched to Europe to dig trenches for allied defense in World War I, took the top prize in the Pitching Forum of the Thessaloniki Intl. Documentary Festival’s Agora Docs industry program, which wrapped Wednesday.
The awards ceremony concluded a session that saw more than 400 professionals taking part both in-person and online in the Agora activities.
In “The Native Dance,” which is produced by Kesmat El Sayed and Laura Kloeckner (SEERA Films), the jury found “a film that promises a compelling visual approach combining archive material and animation, telling the story about the British forcing peasants from Egypt to dig trenches in Europe during WWI,” read the jury’s statement.
The top prize in the Doc in Progress section, the 2|35 Post-Production Company Award in post-production services, went to 2021 Thessaloniki Pitching Forum DAE Award winner “Post Love” from French director Alexis Taillant and producer Nadège Labé (Wendigo Films), that follows a group of elderly LGBTQ+ Parisians who are fighting for “the freedom to risk sex and love, to touch and be seen again in the wake of the pandemic that brought the mistreatment of the elderly to light.”
The jury awarded the film because “[it] sheds a warm and caring light on an issue that goes beyond the LGBTQ+ experience to speak to all of us and the team approaches the film’s characters tenderly and with absolute respect.”
A host of other prizes were awarded to some of the 14 projects selected for the Thessaloniki Intl. Documentary Festival’s Pitching Forum.
The Onassis Film Award, which comes with a cash prize of €5,000 ($5,285) went to “Holy Human Angel” from director Angeliki Aristomenopoulou and producers Yuri Averof and Rea Apostolides (Anemon Productions), Vicky Miha (Asterisk*) and Heather Millard (Compass Films), which follows 20-year-old queer Constantina who comes from a conservative island community in Greece.
The ERT – Thessaloniki Pitching Forum Award for a Greek project, which is accompanied by a cash prize of €2,000 ($2,114), went to “The Man With the Broken Arm” from director Athanssios Vassilou and producers Orlane Dumas (Les Films de l’Aube Sauvage) and Konstantinos Vassilaros (StudioBauhaus), a film about the director’s memories of his father’s involvement in the Junta regime. The film also took home the Mediterranean Film Institute Doc Award, which offers free participation in the 2023 edition of the MFI Doc Lab.
The DAE – Documentary Assn. of Europe Award, which includes consultation and free memberships in the pan-European documentary organization, was bestowed ex aequo to “Our Feminine Wars” from director Zaina Erhaim and producer Brian Hill (Century Films), a film that tells the healing journey the director went on with four rebellious women she filmed when living in Northern Syria, in order to cope with her new exiled life, and “Jana” from director Muhammad Reza Azadi and producers Ali Haider (Filmkhaana) and Maaria Sayed (Draw4Films), the story of Sajjad and Leila, a young Afghani couple who were informed they were expecting their first child on the same day the Taliban took over the country, thus complicating their desire to escape to a Western country. The film also scooped the newly instituted DOK Leipzig Accelerator Award that includes two Co-production Market Observer passes – entailing participation in the Open program – and accommodation at the upcoming edition of the festival.
The Aylon Productions Digital Services Award, which awards digitization by Aylon Productions to the winning project, went to “Far From Maine” from director-producer Roy Cohen (Roy Cohen Films) and producer Serge Gordey (Temps Noir), that follows an Israeli man who, as democracy in his country is challenged, looks into the long-forgotten violent death of his Palestinian friend, killed by the police when they were 17.
The Beldocs Networking Award, which offers accommodation and accreditation for the next International Documentary Festival Beldocs, was awarded to “Maomi – Larger Than Life,” a story of Maomi and Daidai’s marriage that spans six decades and includes 11 countries, six children, three men and one woman, from director Judit Oláh and producers Inez Mátis (Pi Productions), Annika Mayer (Majmun Films), and Anna Stylińska and Katarzyna Slesicka (My Way Studio).
The Agora Docs in Progress section selected 11 projects from South Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean region that participated in closed sessions with industry professionals, sales agents, distributors, producers and festival programmers during the Thessaloniki Intl. Documentary Festival. It also handed out the following awards on Wednesday evening.
The Musou Company Award for music and sound services went to “Savanna and the Mountain” from director-producer Paulo Carneiro (Bam Bam Cinema) and producer Alex Piperno (La Pobladora Cine), which follows a group of farmers, shepherds, pensioners and beekeepers from the village of Covas do Barroso, in the Wonderful Kingdom, an area declared a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System, who organize in secret to protect their peaceful way of life.
The Greek Film Center Award of €3,000 ($3,167) went to “Sacred Way ~ 21KM” from director-co-producer Nikoleta Paraschi and producer Maria Karagiannaki (Chase the Cut), a film about the Sacred Way, the famous 21 km-long road connecting Athens to Eleusis that Ancient Greeks walked in body-cleansing, spirit-awakening rituals that were part of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
The Neaniko Plano Award, that awards subtitling in English or French to the winning project, went to “The Gospel According to Ciretta” from director Caroline Von der Tann and producer Antonella Di Nocera (Parallelo 41 Produzioni).
Finally, the Agora Lab selected six Greek projects for tailor-made consultations and training sessions with Greek and international professionals.
The Guidance Award by Paradiddle Pictures on distribution, festivals, outreach and impact was given to “Katerina” from director Alkisti Efthimiou and producer Mina Draki (Marni Films), in which the director finds Katerina’s letters, a woman who, in order to pursue her affair with a female Chilean poet, migrated to Chile in the 1950s.