2019 WINNERS

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES

BEST DOCUMENTARY & BEST DIRECTOR

ON HER SHOULDERS
Director: Alexandria Bombach
Producers: Hayley Pappas, Brock Williams, Bryn Mooser, Matt Ippolito, Marie Therese Guirgis, Adam Bardach, Alison Klayman
95 mins | USA, Germany, Canada, Greece, Middle East

Twenty-three-year-old Nadia Murad’s life is a dizzying array of exhausting undertakings—from giving testimony before the U.N. to visiting refugee camps to soul-bearing media interviews and one-on-one meetings with top government officials. With deep compassion and a formal precision and elegance that matches Nadia’s calm and steely demeanor, filmmaker Alexandria Bombach follows this strong-willed young woman, who survived the 2014 genocide of the Yazidis in Northern Iraq and escaped the hands of ISIS to become a relentless beacon of hope for her people, even when at times she longs to lay aside this monumental burden and simply have an ordinary life.

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

METAMORPHOSIS
Director: Nova Ami, Velcrow Ripper
Producers: Lauren Grant, Nova Ami, Velcrow Ripper, Bonnie Thompson, David Christensen
85 mins | Canada, USA, Vanuatu, Spain (Canary Islands), Italy, Germany

METAMORPHOSIS bears witness to a moment of profound change: the loss of one world, and the birth of another. Forest fires consume communities, species vanish, and entire ecosystems collapse. Economic growth, tied to increased speed of resource extraction, has created a machine with the capacity to destroy all life. ​But this crisis is also an opportunity for transformation. ​Through a tidal flow of stunning images, Metamorphosis carves a path from the present to the future. ​Woven together with stories of creativity and reinvention from artists, scientists, thinkers, and young children are creative, systemic solutions for our planet, and for our communities. Metamorphosis cinematically delves into how humanity is being transformed in new ways by the environmental crises we have created.

 

BEST EDITING

LETTER FROM MASANJIA
Director: Leon Lee
Producers: Leon Lee
75 min | Canada, China

When a woman in Oregon opens a box of Halloween decorations and finds a distressing letter written by a political prisoner from inside a Chinese labour camp, her discovery makes waves across major news outlets worldwide. Meanwhile, the author of the letter, Sun Yi, breaks through internet firewalls to learn about the attention his letter has received and joins forces with an underground network of journalists and Chinese dissidents to reveal his entire story. From Peabody Award-winning director Leon Lee, Letter From Masanjia takes us deep into the horrific realities of China’s labour camps through the eyes of Sun Yi, who’s determined to expose these unthinkable human rights violations. Despite being hotly pursued by local authorities, he stops at nothing to find justice, ultimately leading to large-scale reform of China’s labour camp system.

 

BEST SOUND

PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE
Director: Hao Wu
Producers: Hao Wu
95 min | USA, China

In a real-life Black Mirror story, two live streamers seek fame, fortune and human connection in China’s digital idol-making universe, ultimately finding the same promises and perils online as in their real lives.

 


DOCUMENTARY SHORTS

BEST DOCUMENTARY & BEST DIRECTOR

LIFEBOAT
Director: Skye Fitzgerald
Producers: Skye Fitzgerald, Bryn Mooser
35 min | USA, Mediterranean

Volunteers from a German non-profit risk the waves of the Mediterranean to pluck refugees from sinking rafts pushing off from Libya in the middle of the night.

LIFEBOAT puts a human face on one of the world’s greatest contemporary, global crises and provides a spark of hope surrounding how civil society can intervene in the refugee crisis in a meaningful way.

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

LITTLE PYONGYANG
Director: Roxy Rezvany
Producers: Roxy Rezvany, Aya Kaido, Matt Diegan
24 min | UK

Joong-wha Choi, a former soldier in the DPRK, lives with his wife and kids in a sleepy London suburb. Despite enjoying the new found comforts of his British life, and being emancipated from the pressures of the North Korean state, his dilemma lies in a desire to return to the land that betrayed him, but is undoubtedly his true home. The film tracks his reflections on both why he left North Korea and the state of his day to day life over the course of several months, in what is ultimately a portrait of the complexities of healing from trauma.

 

BEST EDITING

TRANSIT
Director: Mariam El Marakeshy
Producer: Mariam El Marakeshy
26 min | Turkey, Europe, MENA

Powerful intimate stories of young refugees who risked their lives crossing the Aegean Sea to Europe, only to get trapped on the Greek Island of Lesvos with no future and closed borders. It was supposed to be only their “transit” stop, but it turned out where they ended.

 

BEST SOUND

ONE LEG IN, ONE LEG OUT
Director: Lisa Rideout
Producers: Lauren Grant, Lisa Rideout
15 min | Canada

After a decade as a sex worker, Iman attempts to pursue her dream of becoming a social worker to help her fellow transgender community members. As she explores the option of going back to college, One Leg In, One Leg Out questions whether tenacity, ambition and a life long dream are enough to overcome one’s situation.

 


JURY PRIZES – DOCUMENTARY

LENS TO ACTION (Sponsored by Black Magic Design)

THE PRICE OF FREE
Director: Derek Doneen
Producers: Davis Guggenheim, Sarah Anthony
92 mins | USA, India

The Price of Free (formerly titled Kailash), a suspenseful yet intimate look at one man’s groundbreaking struggle to liberate every child possible from slavery. From director Derek Doneen and Oscar winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth,” “He Named Me Malala”), the film follows Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and his team of leaders around the world through gripping secret raids and quests for missing children in the hopes of ending the cycle of poverty which forces them and their families into dreadful circumstances. Refusing to be daunted by the impossible, they have succeeded in rescuing over 80,000 children and created a global movement which has resulted in legislation which helps protect young children.

 

ETHOS (Sponsored by Black Magic Design)

TRANSMILITARY
Directors: Fiona Dawson, Gabriel Silverman
Producers: Jamie Coughlin
92 mins | USA, Afghanistan

The 2018 SXSW Audience Award-winning feature film debut by Gabriel Silverman & Fiona Dawson, TransMilitary follows the Emmy-nominated short film Transgender, at War and in Love. Around 15,500 transgender people serve in the U.S. military (notably the largest transgender employer in the U.S.), where they must conceal their gender identity because military policies ban their service. TransMilitary chronicles the lives of four individuals (Senior Airman Logan Ireland, Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace & First Lieutenant El Cook) defending their country’s freedom while fighting for their own. They put their careers and their families’ livelihoods on the line by coming out as transgender to top brass officials in the Pentagon in hopes of attaining the equal right to serve. The ban was lifted in 2016, but with President Trump now trying to reinstate it, their futures hang in the balance again.

 

TRANSPARENCY (Sponsored by Black Magic Design)

NAE PASARAN
Director: Felipe Bustos Sierra
Producers: Felipe Bustos Sierra
96 mins | UK, Chile, Scotland

The true story of the retired factory workers from the small town of East Kilbride, Scotland who refused to repair Chilean warplane engines in protest against Pinochet’s brutal military coup in 1973. 40 years later, to the surprise of the Chileans and the Scots, they discover the incredible consequences of their solidarity.

 

BEAUTIFUL THINGS
Directors: Federico Biasin, Giorgio Ferrero
Producers: Federico Biasin
93 min | Italy
Trailer

A symphonic journey into our obsessive consumption. The many objects we accumulate begin their production journey in silent secluded industrial site where borderline men work in isolation without any interference. These men trigger, unconsciously, the long chain of creation, transport, commercialization and destruction of the objects feeding our bulimic lifestyle.

 


VIRTUAL REALITY/360

BEST VR EXPERIENCE, BEST SOUND EXPERIENCE, CREATIVE ADVOCACY JURY PRIZE & JOURNALISTIC ACHIEVEMENT JURY PRIZE (Sponsored by Adobe)

HOME AFTER WAR
Directors: Gayatri Parameswaran | Creative Producer/ Co-creator: Felix Gaedtke
Producers: Sandra Bialystok, Amy Seidenwurm, Paula Cuneo, Laren Burmaster
20-25 min | Germany, Iraq

What if your home becomes the place you fear? An Iraqi father returns to Fallujah to face the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Join him in his home and discover the unfolding of a tragic event.

“Home After War” is a room-scale, interactive virtual reality experience that takes you to Fallujah, a city that was under Islamic State (IS) control. until recently The war against IS has ended but the city is still unsafe. There’s one looming fear for returning refugees – booby trapped homes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the neighbourhoods. Since the end of the war, thousands of civilians have died or been injured by IEDs. Ahmaied Hamad Khalaf and his family returned home after the fighting subsided. Experience what it’s like to fear the home you once loved.

 

BEST DIRECTOR, BEST EDITING & IMMERSIVE IMPACT JURY PRIZE (Sponsored by Adobe)

THE HIDDEN
Directors: Annie Lukowski, BJ Schwartz
Producer: Charles R. Uy
15 min | USA

“The Hidden” is a political thriller that literally drops you in the middle of a high stakes game of cat and mouse without telling you who is hunting whom. In a manner only possible in VR, “The Hidden” will have you experience the pulse-pounding fear and turmoil of an ICE Raid from every perspective.

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

AUTHENTICALLY US: SHE FLIES BY HER OWN WINGS
Directors: Jesse (Jesus) Ayala, Connor Lonning
Producers: Anna Therese Day, Amy Seidenwurm, Paula Cuneo, Lauren Burmaster
10 min | USA

Shannon Scott driven by the military tenet of “Leave No One Behind,” pulls the levers of democracy urging freedom and justice for all be secured from the marbled halls of Washington D.C. to the hallowed ground of those who championed LGBTQ and transgender equality before her.

 


IMPACT VIDEOS

HUMANITAS

BREAKING THE SILENCE ON CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Director: Anshul Tiwari
Executive Producers: Von Tan, Ashima Thomas
10 mins | India, Singapore

Fighter, mother and a survivor of child sexual abuse, Nusrat is determined to ensure no other child experiences the physical or emotional trauma of such horrendous acts. Together with husband, she founded Cactus Foundation to teach children in schools in India, how to recognise and report abuse, as well as to challenge society to recognise the problem, and take action. The volunteer-driven movement has even become a safe space for survivors to reach out and share their stories, giving voice to an issue too often swept under the carpet.

 

CREATIVE ACTIVISM

R.V
Directors: Will Hawkes, Melissa Center
Producers: Will Hawkes, Melissa Center
11 min | USA

Stripped of her rights, a woman’s life changes when she ventures with her husband to remedy an impossible situation.

 


JURY PRIZES – IMPACT VIDEOS

INNOVATION

DIGNITY WITH FLOWERS
Director: Gautam Pemmaraju
Producer: Lin Yanqin
Executive Producer: Von Tan
5 min | India, Singapore

HelpUsGreen is a unique social enterprise based in Kanpur, India. It collects four tonnes of waste flowers everyday from temples and turns it into sustainable products such as organic fertiliser and incense sticks. In doing so they prevent pesticide laden flowers from entering the river Ganges thereby stopping an important polluting element. The waste is hand sorted by marginalised Dalit women previously working mostly as sanitation workers who often faced social discrimination, exploitation and violence. The company provides them with bank accounts, health benefits and insurance, not to mention fair wages. Financial incentives aside, their lives have transformed through this employment. The women feel relieved to have left work that brought them indignity and insecurity. Dignity With Flowers is a film that reveals the story of one such woman Ranjana, who feels her life has turned around. If others do the same Ranjana says, there will be positive change everywhere.

 

IMPACT (Sponsored by Big Boy Systems)

MEGOLONYO: WITH A MOTHER YOU ARE RICH
Director: Justice Nnanna
Producer: Justice Nnanna
15 min | Uganda, USA

Set in a rural village in Northern Uganda, this short-doc tells the story of a Women’s Empowerment Group started by female survivors of the Northern Ugandan War in search of rehabilitation, economic stability, and emotional support.

 


SPECIAL MENTIONS

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES

KANGAROO: A LOVE HATE STORY By Mick McIntyre and Kate McIntyre Clere
THE JUDGE By Erika Cohn
UNSETTLING By Iris Zaki

DOCUMENTARY SHORTS

INDIA’S FORBIDDEN LOVE By Sadhana Subramaniam
PRISONER OF SOCIETY By Rati Tsiteladzev
THE FUTURE OF IRAQ By Thee Yezen Al-Obaide and Mats Muri

VIRTUAL REALITY/360

LIVES ON HOLD IN LEBANON By Negin Allamehzadeh