Open City Doc Fest announces 2020 Awards

Open City Doc Fest announces 2020 Awards

Sofie Benoot, Liesbeth De Ceulaer, Isabelle Tollenaere’s Victoria


£10,000 Assembly Feature Development Funding Award to Gabriela Pena for Here, the Silence is Heard. Open City Award for Authored Feature Film to Belgian trio Sofie Benoot, Liesbeth De Ceulaer, Isabelle Tollenaere for Victoria.


Chilean docmaker Gabriela Pena picked up the £10,000 Assembly Feature Development Funding Award at the London’s Open City Documentary Festival for her Here, the Silence is Heard.


Festival director Chloe Trayner said: “In Here, The Silence is Heard, the echoes of trauma reverberate resonantly across multiple generations. An intimate and profoundly personal story about family, identity, and memory in Chile, this project signals an exciting emerging voice in new Latin American cinema.”


Assembly is a project-based intensive workshop for filmmakers from around the world working on their first or second feature. The workshop programme took place online between 3rd and 8th September, bringing together participants from six feature film projects for talks, workshops, and one-to-one mentoring.


The Open City Award for Authored Feature Film to Flemish filmmakers Sofie Benoot, Liesbeth De Ceulaer, Isabelle Tollenaere for Victoria.


The Open City Award is given by the Open City Jury to the film that exemplifies an author in control of their subject matter, craft and story – matching content and form in a powerful and persuasive fashion. 


The jury said that “Victoria maps a territory of inscription through the work and diary reflections of Lashay T. Warren, a Black man who left Los Angeles to stake a claim and his survival in Cal City, a never-realized city in the California desert. In a post-utopian landscape, and through an effective combination of different devices, the film builds a complex portrait of an individual’s relationship to space, history, and the power of naming.”


A Special Mention was given to Mehrdad Oskouei for Sunless Shadows. The jury said that Sunless Shadows is “an intimate, powerfully crafted, and necessary film that gives voice to women who have had their voices taken away by the state and by their families.”


The Emerging Filmmaker Award, is presented to a first or second time feature filmmaker who displays new and exciting approaches to storytelling, and who exhibits commitment to their choices and a clear directorial vision, was picked up by Gu Xue for The Choice.


The jury said that they chose to award The Choice for “its bold formal gestures that eloquently address cultural dynamics of gender, class, and generation, with patient familiarity.”


A Special Mention was given to Elvis Sabin Ngaïbino for Makongo, “for its attention to the complex relationship between Indigenous communities and capitalism reflected through its moments of stillness, congregation, and action.”


The UK Short Film Award – British Short Documentary was awarded to Mahdi Fleifel for 3 Logical Exits. About their choice, the jury said that “this exploration of the stark realities facing young Palestinan refugees and workers in Lebanon asks important questions about the representation of violence and vulnerability in documentary work. Filmed over ten years, the filmmaker showed a deep engagement with the subject, carefully handling the interplay between the personal and political with a strikingly cinematic approach and thoughtfully crafted narrative.”


The jury also gave a special mention to Ayo Akingbade for So They Say, saying that “this tender and intergenerational approach to the archive of the community and history of local action has a strong resonance with the current climate of racial injustice in the UK. The creative reconstruction of 1980s activism created a space to spotlight those who had been doing the work of organising for many years and continue to today.”


The International Short Film Award went to  Basir Mahmood for Good Ended Happily. The jury said that: “Good Ended Happily has been unanimously selected by the jury because it provokes new inquiries through its innovative form.”


Celebrating the art of non-fiction, Open City Documentary Festival creates an open space in London to nurture and champion the art of creative documentary and non-fiction filmmakers. The festival’s tenth edition took place online between 9th – 15th September 2020, and consists of international contemporary and retrospective non-fiction film, audio and cross media, as well as filmmaker Q&As, and industry panels.