‘In a Whisper’ and ‘Sunless Shadows’ Win Top Awards at IDFA

Damon Wise and Leo Barraclough

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Directors Heidi Hassan and Patricia Pérez Fernández were the winners of the IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary with “In a Whisper,” a film that focuses on two emigrated Cuban filmmakers reunited by their passion for film, friendship and freedom.

The jury, which comprised Claire Simon, Mila Turajlić, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Gaston Kaboré, and Rima Mismar, described the film as “a magical, original, and risk-taking cinematic endeavor,” which embodied “a refreshing expression of womanhood; an ode to loss; a celebration of friendship, will, and vulnerability; a reclaiming of hope and passion; and a piercingly honest cinematic dialogue.”

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Iranian docmaker Mehrdad Oskouei won the award for directing for his subtly devastating film “Sunless Shadows,” which focuses on young women serving time for the murder of a male relative. The jury was very impressed by the director’s “approach to a pressing subject which he skilfully turns into a metaphor for a whole country.” The director “portrays the complexity and tragedy of the characters’ condition and their haunting stories, while challenging notions such as freedom, safety, and love,” the jury said.

The award for editing went to Sander Vos for Dutch pic “Punks,” directed by Maasja Ooms, which looks at a group of troubled teenagers struggling with their inner demons. The jury said the award was given for “the intelligent and sensitive editing that sets the tone for the dramatic structure of the film.” The jury also praised it for “powerfully balancing between a slow-paced, almost actionless daily struggle, and a jittery inner world of held emotions and wounded selves.”

The film’s Maasja Ooms won the award for cinematography for “the rigorous camerawork that captures the inner transformations of the characters and elegantly stands at the right position and distance from extremely intimate situations and dramatic revelations.”

In the IDFA Competition for First Appearance the top award was won by Britain’s Lucy Walker for “Solidarity,” which looks at how a blacklist operated in the U.K. to exclude construction workers who complained about working conditions. The jury—which included Paolo Moretti, Anand Patwardhan, Emma Davie, Maya Hawke, and Tatiana Huezo—called it “a rigorous, complex, and clever yet accessible look at a strongly contemporary issue, which transcends its subject and transforms it into a disquieting universal warning.”

Special mentions went to “Froth” by Ilya Povolotsky, and “I Owe You a Letter About Brazil” by Carol Benjamin.

IDFA’s artistic director Orwa Nyrabia presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Danish documentary filmmaker Jørgen Leth, who said: “People often ask me what motivates me to continue making films, and I always answer that it’s all very simple—I just cannot stop!”

He added: “My almost 50 films during the last 57 years were made on behalf of my lust and my curiosity to explore the art of filmmaking. My work can be seen as a whole and as a continuous exploration of how to make films.”

For a full list of award winners see here.

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