Shoghakat Vardanyan’s ‘1489,’ About Disappearance of Director’s Brother, Wins Best Film at IDFA

Shoghakat Vardanyan’s “1489,” which follows the director’s family after her brother goes missing while serving in the Armenian army, won documentary festival IDFA’s best film prize Thursday.

The jury of the International Competition section said the film “acts as a piercing light that makes visible the vast hidden interior landscape of grief and creates a tangible presence from unbearable absence.”

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The jury added that it was “cinema as a tool of survival — to allow us all to look at the things we would rather not see, and ultimately, an unforgettable example of cinema as an act of love.”

The best directing award went to Mohamed Jabaly for “Life Is Beautiful,” in which the Palestinian filmmaker documents his life in 2014 when he was visiting Norway and was prevented from returning home to Gaza because the border was closed.

Life Is Beautiful
“Life Is Beautiful”

The jury members said the film was “a timely cinematic expression of the universal need to be recognized in our full humanity.” They added it was a “compelling indictment of the bureaucratic and political structures that deny that.” They praised a “directorial tone that, almost impossibly, manages to find hope and humor amid unimaginable pain.”

The editing prize went to Anand Patwardhan for “The World Is Family” from India. In the film, the director takes footage from old home movies featuring his parents, who died 10 years previously, to paint a portrait of the history of India since independence. The jury said the film was “a vivid evocation of 100 years of history in less than 100 minutes of cinema.” It added that it was an “intimate act of family portraiture whose spirited subjects are lovingly painted with humor and deep humanity.”

“Flickering Lights,” another Indian film, won the cinematography award, with Anirban Dutta and Anupama Srinivasan taking the prize. The film centers on a close-knit community in an Indian village on the border with Myanmar as the locals await the arrival of electricity for the first time. The jury said the film established “a beautiful relationship between a vibrant community and the audience, created through the curious and patient gaze of the camera.”

The jury members of the International Competition section were Emilie Bujès, Francesco Giai Via, Tabitha Jackson, Ada Solomon and Xiaoshuai Wang.

“Canuto’s Transformation,” directed by Brazil’s Ariel Kuaray Ortega and Ernesto de Carvalho, won the best film award in the Envision Competition, whose focus is on “films with a more daring form, where makers approach reality from a different angle and seek out the furthest boundaries of documentary art.”

The film centers on the indigenous Mbyá-Guaraní community, who live in a region of Brazil bordering Argentina. Among the themes it addresses are colonization and the disadvantaged status of indigenous communities.

The jury said: “With a decades-long commitment to the filmmaking process within community, a sense of humor, and a quest to move between worlds. This film embodies the many meanings of transformation.”

The film also received the award for outstanding artistic contribution.

The best directing award in the Envision Competition went to Kumjana Novakova for “Silence of Reason,” which is about the use of rape as a weapon in the Bosnian War. The film is a co-production between North Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The jury members for the Envision Competition were Annouchka de Andrade, Cao Guimarães, Kirsten Johnson and Kivu Ruhorahoza.

Canuto's Transformation
“Canuto’s Transformation”


International Competition
Best Film: “1489,” dir. Shoghakat Vardanyan
Best Directing: “Life Is Beautiful,” dir. Mohamed Jabaly
Best Editing: “The World Is Family,” editor Anand Patwardhan
Best Cinematography: “Flickering Lights,” cinematographers Anirban Dutta and Anupama Srinivasan

Envision Competition
Best Film: “Canuto’s Transformation,” dir. Ariel Kuaray Ortega and Ernesto de Carvalho
Best Directing: “Silence of Reason,” dir. Kumjana Novakova
Outstanding Artistic Contribution: “Canuto’s Transformation,” dir. Ariel Kuaray Ortega and Ernesto de Carvalho

Best First Feature: “Chasing the Dazzling Light,” dir. Yaser Kassab

FIPRESCI Award: “1489,” dir. Shoghakat Vardanyan

Best Short Documentary: “At That Very Moment,” dir. Rita Pauls and Federico Luis Tachella
Special Mention – Short Documentary: “My Father,” dir. Pegah Ahangarani

Best Youth Documentary (13+): “Sister of Mine,” dir. Mariusz Rusiński
Best Youth Documentary (9-12): “And a Happy New Year,” dir. Sebastian Mulder
Special Mention – Youth Documentary Competition: “Boyz,” dir. Sylvain Cruiziat

Best Dutch Film: “Gerlach,” dir. Aliona van der Horst and Luuk Bouwman
Special Mention – Best Dutch Film: “Mother Suriname,” dir. Tessa Leuwsha

DocLab Award for Immersive Non-Fiction: “Turbulence: Jamais Vu,” dir. Ben Joseph Andrews and Emma Roberts
Special Jury Award for Creative Technology for Immersive Non-Fiction: “Natalie’s Trifecta,” dir. Natalie Paneng
DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling: “Anouschka,” dir. Tamara Shogaolu
Special Jury Award for Creative Technology for Digital Storytelling: “Borderline Visible,” dir. Ant Hampton
Special Mention – DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling: “Despelote,” dir. Julián Cordero and Sebastian Valbuena

Beeld & Geluid IDFA ReFrame Award: “Selling a Colonial War,” dir. In-Soo Radstake
Special Mention – Beeld & Geluid IDFA ReFrame Award: “Milisuthando,” dir. Milisuthando Bongela

IDFA Forum Award for Best Pitch: “Son of the Streets,” dir. Mohammed Almughanni
IDFA Forum Award for Best Rough Cut: “Coexistence, My Ass!,” dir. Amber Fares
IDFA DocLab Forum Award: “Turbulence,” dir. Ben Joseph Andrews and Emma Roberts

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