On Tuesday, June 28th, Sheffield DocFest 2022 announced this year’s winners presented during the awards ceremony at Sheffield City Hall’s Memorial Hall. While the line up had many MENA and SWANA gems participating in the documentary festival, the prizes didn't reflect that as much. But there were too many great films in this year's DocFest, that's all.
Nadim Mishlawi described his latest as a "contemplative film and also more of a reflection than an analysis," in a recent interview. The film's synopsis on the Abbout Productions website reads as follow: "Suspended between a brutal past and an uncertain future, the city of Beirut lingers in a fragile and indefinite present tense. Reflecting on the aftermath of his father’s death, After the End of the World is the memoir of a filmmaker’s experiences in Beirut, a city haunted by loss. The film looks beyond Beirut’s political landscape, and focuses on the subtler notion of Beirut as an uncanny urban experiment. Contrasting ruins of the recent past with the influx of modernity, the film becomes a portrait of a city on the brink of perpetual disappearance."
To find out all the titles awarded, read below.
International Competition (Best Film):
Best Film in International Competition was awarded to Sansón and Me directed by Rodrigo Reyes (Mexico,USA; 2022). The award honours films that display strong artistic vision and courageous storytelling. Supported by BBC Studios Documentary Unit, this Award is Academy Award® accredited.
The jury, Emma Davie, Ike Nnaebue, and Raymond Phathanavirangoon said “The filmmaker chooses to explore a subject matter which is all too often invisible and neglected: the incarceration of immigrants in the US. By collaborating with the young protagonist to find an innovative filmic language to evolve the socio-economic circumstances behind his desperation, the filmmaker allows us to empathise with a personal narrative beyond the law.”
Special mentions were given to One Day in Ukraine, Volodymyr Tykhyy (Ukraine, Poland - 2022) and After the End of the World, Nadim Mishlawi (Lebanon - 2022)
International First Feature Competition:
The Best First Feature Award is presented to Master of Light by Rosa Ruth Boesten (USA, Netherlands - 2022). The award honours the future of non-fiction film, celebrates promising talent and is supported by Netflix.
The jury, Roman Bondarchuk, Nainita Desai and Natasha Gadd said “The jury commends the film for its bold and fearless vision in creating an intimate portrait of artist George Anthony Morton and his personal and artistic journey to reconcile his past through his art. The documentary, like George’s paintings, is a fully rendered canvas, shining light on the shadows cast by systemic racism and the resulting intergenerational trauma by drawing on technical craft and lived experience to reveal deep personal, political and artistic histories.”
Special mention was given to Julie on Line by Mia Ma (France- 2021).
International Short Film Competition:
Best Short Film was awarded to Fawley by Chu-Li Shewring and Adam Gutch (UK - 2022). The award honours the best creative approach to documentary under 40 minutes. Supported by WarnerBros OneFifty, this section is Academy Award®, BAFTA and BIFA accredited.
The jury, Zeynep Güzel, Cherish Oteka and Saskia Wilson said “This is a distinctive and beautifully crafted exploration of the intersection of nature, architecture, and the human experience. Bringing together the many voices involved in the landscape – power plant workers, bird watchers, local people and the creatures inhabiting the space – the film is a powerful poetic reflection on the psychological role of our surroundings and our symbiotic relationship with nature. It is fantastically detailed, from observing the beauty in the Brutalist architecture to the tiny minnows swimming in the shallows, the film connects the audience with a range of universal themes such as ‘power’ structures, preserving nature and the impact we leave on our environment.”
Special mention was given to Calling Cabral by Welket Bungué (Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Brazil- 2022)
Tim Hetherington Award:
The Tim Hetherington Award was presented to LYRA by Alison Millar (UK- 2021). The award recognises a film and filmmaker that best reflects the legacy of photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington and is supported by Dogwoof.
The jury, Elena Cosentino, Akuol de Mabior and Philippe Sands QC said “For its celebration of a short but hugely inspiring life and career, devoted to fearless and independent journalism, LGBTQIA+ equality and the rights and dignity of the disadvantaged, for the loving and painstaking craft of a film that celebrates a level of courage and selflessness in journalism which evokes that of Tim Hetherington, the jury is unanimous in offering the award to LYRA.”
Special mention was given to The Territory by Alex Pritz (Brazil, Denmark, USA - 2022)
Alternate Realities Award:
The Alternate Realities Award which honours the best innovative non-fiction work was presented to The Sound Voice Project by Hannah Conway.
The jury Dr Rob Eagle, Shehani Fernando and Irini Papadimitriou said “This beautifully crafted installation packs an emotional punch and demonstrates the power of co-creation with long-term collaborators. Drawing on the firsthand experiences of people who have lost their voices, Hannah Conway manages to unite moving operatic compositions with a restrained use of triptych staging. The innovative format pushes the boundaries of how the medium of song can express stories about the resilience of the human condition.”
Special mention was given to The Acquisitions Panel by Rachel Briscoe “for facilitating a thought-provoking and dynamic dialogue amongst strangers. The work challenges audiences to confront their own biases and hear from a range of nuanced viewpoints regarding contested heritage objects.”
Youth Jury Award:
The Youth Jury Award was presented to Alis by Nicolas van Hemelryck and Clare Weiskopf (Colombia, Romania, Chile - 2022) by five of the UK’s most passionate young documentary lovers to celebrate non-fiction cinema. The award is supported by Warner Bros. Discovery.
The Jury, Emma Morgan-Bennett, Esme Haddrill Selman, Hannah Jackson, Mie Murasa and Xaymaca Awoyungbo who curated a selection of seven films to be considered in a mentored deliberation said "Alis embodies our values as jurors, taking both a playful and deeply sensitive approach to contemporary youth culture. Like Clare’s and Nicolas’ observations of their subjects, this film is also a ‘light face in a dark world.”
Special mention was given to Four Journeys by Louis Hothothot (Netherlands, China - 2021)
The Sheffield DocFest Audience Award – Film, goes to A Bunch of Amateurs, by Kim Hopkins. This affectionate tribute to silver screen dreamers details a group of ageing cinephiles’ attempts to save their filmmaking club, including remaking a classic musical. The film about the Bradford Movie Makers, one of the oldest Amateur film making clubs in the country, had its World Premiere at the Festival. It was part-funded by Screen Yorkshire and selected for this year’s International Competition.
The Sheffield DocFest Audience Award – Alternate Realities, goes to Santa Barbara, by Diana Markosian. Inspired by the artist’s mother, who travelled to the US in search of the American Dream, this single-screen work is an exploration of sacrifice and aspiration.
Audiences cast their votes at cinemas and venues throughout the festival – every feature film in the programme being eligible for the Film Audience Award – and all of the works in the Alternate Realities programme eligible for the Alternate Realities Audience Award, supported by The 5Gs.
Pitch Session Winners:
Three pitch sessions took place during the festival for selected emerging directors to pitch their non-fiction projects to panels of judges.
The Whickers Pitch, Film & TV Funding Award 2022 with a prize of £100,000 went to Our Hoolocks co-directors Chinmoy Sonowal & Ragini Nath (Liminal Picture Production - India); the runner-up prize of £20,000 went to Re-Evaluation director Toby Bull (Snowstorm Productions – UK). The award recognises original and innovative documentary - and uses the generous legacy of its namesake, pioneering broadcaster Alan Whicker, to support emerging, international directors working on their first first feature-length documentaries. This year’s judges were Jo Lapping (BBC), Kate Townsend (Netflix), Oli Harbottle (DogWoof), Mak CK (Award-Winning Filmmaker), Jane Mote (The Whickers).
Our Hoolocks - Sidhanta, a fisherman in Assam, has been fighting to protect the Hoolock Gibbons, India’s fast-vanishing ape species, in his village. However, this endearing tale of human-animal coexistence is threatened when a nearby oilfield disrupts the delicate ecosystem and his relationship with the Hoolocks, which are dying at an alarming rate.
Re-Evaluation - Grieving his parents’ untimely deaths, filmmaker Toby Bull seeks solace from their diaries and home videos. Instead, he uncovers a horror story. Their archive seems to reveal the ongoing trauma of childhood abuse – and their hope of healing through a secretive psychotherapy movement called Re-Evaluation Counselling. Interviewing his parents’ surviving friends and undergoing RC therapy himself, Toby grapples with this controversial organisation, in the hope that it will help him to re-evaluate the past he thought he knew.
Channel 4 First Cut Pitch saw five short-listed directors present and discuss a 3 minute micro-documentary on the themed brief Last Laugh. This was won by Ben Cheetham, securing a commission for a 60-minute film and one month of fully-paid development and mentorship with an independent producer (£5,000 development fund), to further develop the idea or one put forward by the indie, paid for by Channel 4; plus one week’s NFTS training paid for by Channel 4.
“The team felt Ben’s short film showed essential characteristics of the very best documentary making - a superb main character, revealing shooting and a structure in the edit that develops. It also followed the brief in an innovative way that made us all laugh out loud.” said Rita Daniels, Sacha Mirzoeff, Channel 4 First Cut commissioners.
Ben Cheetham is a documentary filmmaker and graduate of NFTS with a background in visual anthropology. His credits include the BAFTA nominated series The Dog HouseI and The Simple Life for Channel 4; he directed the short filmInside a Marriage which was highly commended at the 2020 Grierson Awards and nominated for an RTS award in 2021.
BBC Three Northern Docs Pitch saw emerging filmmakers from the North of England invited to pitch their idea to a panel of BBC commissioners and a BBC Three Channel Executive. The recipient of the prize of a documentary commission with BBC Three will be announced at a later date.
Sheffield DocFest took place in person 23-28 June with Film screenings, Alternate Realities exhibitions, Marketplace & Talent activity, and Talks & Sessions. Taking place – with 135 films (95 features and 40 shorts) and 29 works in Alternate Realities.