(Ousmane Samassekou / France / Mali / South Africa)
Dox:Award is sponsored by DR
Dox:Award is sponsored by DR
The Malian city of Gao has for decades been a peaceful haven for African travellers. Here, on the edge of the Sahel desert, lies the House of Migrants, which is the temporary home for thousands of people every year. The hopeful ones, who are on their way to Europe. And those whose luck ran out and who are now on their way back to their hometowns and families. The Malian documentary filmmaker Ousmane Samassekou listens to two young girls and a middle-aged woman lying in a small room and exchanging dreams and stories. Elsewhere in the house, young men are watching wrestling on TV. Samassekou’s attentive camera frames the faces, the voices and their stories in a uniquely beautiful and humane film about no longer having a home once you have set off. But the atmosphere in the house itself expresses the melancholy of exile through calm and sensual images. All around the city, new and old wars are taking place in the endless desert.
“The Dox:Award goes to a profound film which transports us to a vast landscape of questioning. Inspired by a family disappearance some 30 years ago, the film lingers like a mirage on a vast horizon. Through its tender portraiture it populates an epic vista with unforgettable individuals on the cusp of choosing whether they will risk being obliterated in search of a dream. This is a film which changes our own relationship to time and meaning as we watch it. Its scale and implications are epic, at the same time, the film itself is intimate and gentle. This film is an act of resistance against an endless history of colonized cinema in the complexity, patience and integrity of its representation. It is a great pleasure to award the CPH DOX:Award prize to ‘The Last Shelter’ by Ousmane Samassékou.”
Three Syrian activists – Yadan, Odai and Rani – are reunited on stage in Paris almost 10 years after the outbreak of the Syrian revolution. Here, the director Rami Farah, himself a Syrian, confronts them with footage from the early years of the uprising – footage that was smuggled out of the country in 2012, and which they have either filmed themselves or which changed their lives. The three friends met when they became members of a media collective in Daraa, where the revolution started. Today, seeing the footage again allows both them and us to think about the complexity of a popular uprising, which ended in a devastating conflict. In the meantime, several of their friends have been killed in the chaotic conflict while they themselves have lived in exile. But the Syrian war also marks a historic turning point in the documentation of wars around the world and their coverage by the more or less voluntary civilian journalists armed with smartphones and small cameras. The three activists’ reunion with the war and with each other is an experience full of emotions, which at the same time testifies to the courage and strong will of the Syrian people.
“We have decided to award a special mention to a film that both challenged and haunted us – a work that expands on a painful tradition of documentaries we have all watched over the last decade. In a space created between viewer and images; in a process which is both performative and therapeutic, trauma is deconstructed and transformed, before our eyes, into camaraderie; intimacy; guilt, failure and despair. As the film progresses it exposes the impossible dichotomy faced by its protagonists – they want to remember, and at the same time they yearn to move beyond the past. Yadan, Rani and Odai’s engagement with the videos they filmed years ago, in their hometown of Dar’ah, reminds us that the images from the Syrian revolution, beyond being testimony, and evidence, are first and foremost people’s memories. The CPH:DOX Award Special Mention goes to ‘Our Memory Belongs To Us’ by Rami Farah and Signe Byrge Sørensen.”
New:Vision Award is sponsored by Normann Copenhagen
In a digital mosaic of video clips from the internet and shot on his mobile phone, the Lebanese artist Haig Aivazian (‘Prometheus’, CPH:DOX 2019) places images and ideas on a speculative timeline, which stretches from the 19th to the 21st century. From the mythological heyday of whalers, as immortalised in ‘Moby Dick’, to our times with smart cities, surveillance and urban guerilla warfare – a world that reminds us more and more of science fiction. Aivazian is a brilliant sculptor of images with an eye for associative and suggestive connections. He is also an analyst who with a single edit can chart deep causal links between the world and data. Even when the territory is Syria, and the map looks like a starry sky, but is in fact a heartbreaking image of how darkness has fallen over the country in just a few years.
“What feels at first like a recognizable work of heady post-internet montage seamlessly morphs into a visually essaystic inquiry into representation and digital forensis. The style of surprising cuts and juxtapositions, and chaotic pace, transitions into a carefully composed picture of mass contemporary loss, and the absence of mourning the missing among all the static. The New Vision Award goes to ‘All of your Stars are but Dust on My Shoes’ by Haig Avazian.”
Like a shooting star on a black sky, a rocket makes its way up through the atmosphere, heading towards outer space. An image of expansion that finds other manifestations in imperialism and colonialism and which describes the microcosm of French Guiana, where General de Gaulle moved the French space programme in the 1960s after Algeria’s independence. With its just about 300,000 inhabitants and a location on the Caribbean coast north of Brazil, French Guiana was considered a more stable territory for a new space centre. In a film based on the archives of the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), the artists (and siblings) Audrey and Maxime Jean-Baptiste chart the fascinating micro-history in essay form, where an imaginary character describes the local people’s experience of the French space adventure, with forced relocations and an immediate ‘modernisation’ according to European norms.
“We felt that this film was a highly accomplished exploration of a specific cultural history that carried the subject with a notable degree of formal and conceptual sophistication, and indicated the start of an exciting collaborative practice that we should all keep an eye on. The Special Mention goes to ‘Listen to the Beat of Our Images’ by Audrey and Maxime Jean-Baptiste.”
F.act Award is sponsored by IMS and The Danish Union of Journalists
Behind the gas masks of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, the often very young activists are just as diverse as the youths of the rest of the world. But they share a demand for democracy and freedom. They have the will and the courage to fight – and they can see that things are going in the wrong direction in the small island city, which officially has autonomy under China but is now tightening its grip and demanding that ‘troublemakers’ be put away or silenced. Amid the violent protests, we meet a 21-year-old student, a teenage couple and a new father. Nuances and dilemmas add depth to the heated conflict, which is otherwise in danger of being reduced to a romantic freedom fight in ideological black-and-white. If anything, the collective work ‘When A City Rises’ shows us that the battle against oppression is not just fought on the front lines on the streets, but also at home in the living rooms, in the schools and on social media. And we are there on all fronts in a courageous film about an entire generation’s last chance to have a life in democracy and freedom – until Covid-19 shows up and changes the rules of the game once again.
“If there was one underlying thread connecting all the films nominated for this award, it is courage. In many instances, the filmmakers risked their lives multiple times and over the course of years to expose injustice, oppression and cruelty. As a jury, we were awed by their bravery, their vision and their dedication. And so, as you can imagine, choosing one film to receive the F:ACT Award was not easy. This film by a directing collective of young people shines a light on the brutality of China’s oppressive policies and actions through the intimate stories of a small group of activists on the frontlines of the democracy movement. The film we chose has the narrative tension of an action adventure film, is propelled forward by a powerful score and skillful editing and perhaps most importantly, pierces the depth of our emotions in its raw and honest portrayal of this real-life David and Goliath battle. We hope that our chosen film receives the widespread international attention it deserves and as the best investigative films sometimes can, plays a role in changing the world. We are honoured and excited to announce that ‘When a City Rises’ is the film we chose to receive the F:act Award.”
Big data and new technologies have expanded the political arena to include all walks of life. In his investigative and kaleidoscopic but razor-sharp and (thought-)provoking high tech essay, the American filmmaker Theo Anthony looks at how visibility, knowledge and power are connected today. From Axon (the arms company behind the Taser electroshock weapon) to an angry citizens’ meeting about surveillance among the black population of Anthony’s native Baltimore, dizzying patterns start forming. Patterns that reach back in history and into a near future, where AI is enforcing the discipline. The question is whether the new technologies are more objective and fair, or if they just give a new lease of life to the same old (racial) prejudices in a world where crime and punishment are variables in an algorithm. Theo Anthony operates in the field between investigative documentarism and visual art, and ‘All Light, Everywhere’ is a bright example of a mastermind in action.
“The Special Mention goes to a filmmaker who has become a pioneer in the documentary genre. With a visionary and highly artistic style his work takes political investigative documentaries to the next level – which, this jury believes, is crucial today: As documentary filmmakers we have to push ourselves to be more innovative and courageous also in our form – maybe especially so when we work on political documentaries – so we can reach a wider and younger audience with our stories. The Special Mention of the F:act competition is a timely yet timeless film. With much courage and deep access, the filmmaker takes us on a journey into power structures and surveillance technologies, new weapons and police brutality in the US. Through a masterful form that bridges investigative documentary with visual art, the director creates a mind-expanding poetic cinematic wake-up call which reveals how new technologies like police body cameras and the use of artificial intelligence reinforces our existing systems of injustice. The Special Mention Award goes to Theo Anthony with ‘All Light, Everywhere’.”
Nordic:Dox Award is sponsored by Erik Birger Christensen’s Fund
Julia and Nina have always been friends. Julia is a whirlwind in every setting. She is festive, fast-talking and creative. Nina is observant, hides behind her camera and adores her friend’s vitality. When the film starts, they are in their late 20s. Julia lives in Copenhagen and struggles with an escalating alcohol problem, and Nina tries to understand and help her while fighting her own demons. What starts out as Julia’s story grows over four years into a story about mental health and addiction, about parties, life crises and art. But most of all, it is a story of the type of friendship that is deep enough to accommodate both love and conflicts. ‘Julia&I’ is a (self) portrait of two women who give everything to each other and the camera. From funerals and angry quarrels to a fateful encounter. And always with Nina’s camera at hand.
“Shot over a period of a few years, this personal and brave film is both a portrait and self-portrait of two memorable characters struggling with inner turmoils and the place they’re expected to occupy in society. Extremely aware of the impact and pressure of self-representation (both in-person and online) in the contemporary world, the film’s impressive use of editing manages to create an engaging narrative out of hours of non-scripted visuals. Like life itself, it is sometimes chaotic and sometimes contradictory, but always impressive in its commitment to emotional honesty towards the ups and downs of friendship, addiction and identity crisis. For signalling the emergence of a true artist and for its courageous and unfiltered representation of two young women unafraid to show the multiple struggles they face, the jury would like to give the 2021 Nordic:Dox Award to ‘Julia & I’.”
Thirty-year-old Peter experiences life differently, through touch, smell and taste. Born without the ability to hear, see, or speak, Peter’s family must do this for him. Years later, he was also placed on the autism spectrum. Since she came into the world, his younger sister Christine has been by his side, guiding him and supporting their parents. Traveling through a myriad of emotions, she is now coming to terms with the fact that she will one day become his guardian.
“The best documentary films are always a window into other lives, other realities than our own. Always under-represented, people with disabilities have therefore often been the subject of documentaries. This moving film distinguishes itself by its very personal nature and its capacity to make us aware of the daily struggles a family can face in such a situation. It is both a love letter from a sister to a brother who cannot but live in his own world, and a very honest portrayal of the people who dedicate their lives for him. For its deeply humanistic approach, the jury would like to give a special mention to ‘He’s my Brother’.”
70-year-old Kaminah and 74-year-old Kusdalini have known each other since they met in prison at a very young age during the Indonesian dictatorship, suspected of being communists, which they obvious and proudly were – and still are! Since then, the two women have lived together for over 50 years in a small, self-made house and shared their long lives in a close and intimate relationship. Things only change when Kusdalini is taken to hospital. ‘You and I’ is a film that seemingly contains everything in its immediate simplicity: friendship, love, political commitment, life itself. There is no need for grand effects in Fanny Chotimah’s beautiful and profoundly moving debut. The emotions are pure and strong, and you must be made of stone not to be deeply moved by Kaminah and Kusdalini’s devotion to each other – or not to be carried away by their revolutionary slogans, for that matter.
“The jury presents the Next Wave Award to Fanny Chotimah for You and I. With grace and charm, the film’s protagonists, Kaminah and Kusdalini, make their way through the shower of daily life’s details while reflecting on the years they spent imprisoned for their participation in a Communist youth choir. Blending historical and observational strands, Chotimah leads viewers to a moment of powerful catharsis. Kusdalini passes away, Kaminah begins to cry, and we feel the weight of tragedy behind her tears. She mourns the death of her life-partner, her imprisoned comrades, and the emancipatory dreams of a generation.”
The Siberian permafrost is melting. Out in landscapes that have remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years, ancient bones are now surfacing in the thawing soil, while some wild species are disappearing. Out here under the mighty sky, a few solitary people are going about their respective errands. A father must teach his young son from the big city to hunt wild reindeer, while an expedition of three is searching for mammoth tusks, with the aim of cloning the extinct giant with its own DNA in a laboratory far away. Myths and eras lie in layers in Liesbeth de Ceulaer’s immersive and atmospheric film from the tundra, which records the slow, significant changes with a seismographic sensitivity expressed in images and sound. ‘Holgut’ (the title refers to an ancient legend) is not just a film that contents itself with observing the fatal mass extinction of flora and fauna and its possible return in a cloned form. Imagination and reality, past and present, myths and dreams – all distinct forms slowly melt together in de Ceulaer’s visionary and relevant mood report from the steppes.
“The jury would like to give a Special Mention to a film that shows the director’s galaxy brain at work. The film moves gracefully between various storytelling modes, collapsing the ancient past with a vision of lost futures, and constantly surprising and delighting us with its nimble, dizzying, mysterious dance. A formally ambitious work that tackles key anxieties of the Anthropocene with rare imagination and complexity, Liesbeth De Ceulaer’s Holgut is a haunting cinematic odyssey and a stunning achievement.”
Danish:Dox Award is sponsored by Politiken Fund.
Josephine has colourful wigs, a large, heavy nose ring and collects bones from road-kills. She is 20 years old and has never been part of the handball clique in the small town where she grew up. Instead, she has found two friends in the Goth culture – the maximalist with the self-proclaimed name ‘Nightmare’ and the reflective Christian, Jay. Armed with heavy makeup and wild outfits, the Goth trinity fights to control their inner demons, and together, they create a space in which they can roam freely. But one day, Josephine falls in love with the handsome Jan, and as her black-beating heart starts to beat for something other than darkness, their precious friendship is threatened.
“This year’s winner continues a strong tradition of going to the suburbs or countryside and digging into a subculture and then following it intimately. It is not an epic story. It might not be a so called important story. It is an intimate story. Without forcing it, it captures something soft and true and most importantly it tells it with a playful and forceful visuality.This years winner of The Politiken:Danish:Dox Award is ‘Dark Blossom’ by the director Frigge Fri.”
Lina starts to research into her own past in order to heal from her father’s atrocious violence. When she was a child, he used to beat her and her mother with fists and leather belts. Only when he found a job at a winery in northern Italy did the cruelty stopped.
Lina could never forgive him. When she moved to Romania to become a student, she stopped answering his calls, but after a painful divorce and years of therapy, she decides to confront him.
In Italy, she learns that the man who abused her is a victim of violent abuse himself. His Italian boss has been beating him. Her father asks her for help and Lina gives him a hidden camera. When she gets the footage, she discovers not only gruesome images of the beatings, but also video messages her father recorded in which he asks for forgiveness and a place in her life.
Filmed in Moldova, Romania and Italy, Tata/Father is a personal feature documentary that explores how a father and his daughter are trying to break a cycle of violence that has existed in their family and in their culture for generations.
“We first wanted to congratulate all the participants for the wonderful stories and presentations, and we really look forward to watching all your films in the cinema soon. The Eurimages Co-production Development Award of 20.000 Euros goes to a project which takes on a complex personal story with depth, trying to understand the cycle of violence and its mechanisms. Most importantly, it took on the subject with honesty and heart, and shows great potential to benefit from the award. The award goes to ‘Tata / Father’ by directors Lina Vdovîi & Radu Ciorniciuc, and producer Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan”
In collaboration with DR 3 (the Danish Broadcasting Cooperation) and Filmworkshop / Copenhagen, CPH:DOX has also handed out the DR Talent Award, which goes to a young talent who is in the process of developing a documentary. The price includes DKK 25,000, professional advice from DR as well as guidance and access to professional equipment at Filmworkshop / Copenhagen. This year, the award went to the project ‘Artist Manager – together we take over the world’ by director Kirstine Holmen.