Dutch filmmaker Aliona Van der Horst’s Turn Your Body to the Sun, which retraces a Russian soldier’s past as a Nazi prisoner and later as an inmate at the former Soviet Union’s notorious gulags, won the top prize at the Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short Fiction and Animation Films on Saturday.
MIFF kicked off on May 29 in physical and online mode. The festival is organised by Films Division.
Turn Your Body to the Sun, one of 18 titles in the International Competition section, continues Van der Horst’s efforts to uncover the excesses committed by the former Soviet regime. Her latest documentary skilfully bolsters family memories, diaries and archival research with artificial intelligence.
The Golden Conch, which the documentary was awarded, carries a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh. The International Competition jury, which was headed by Mina Rad, observed in a press statement that Van der Horst “has recreated the personal stories of World War II in such a fashion that it provokes the thought of the viewers”. The jury added that “the innovative use of archival material is very sensitive and that the cinematic treatment is par excellence”.
Ojaswwee Sharma’s Admitted won the Silver Conch award for Best Documentary Film (above 60 minutes) in the National Competition section. Admitted is a biographical film about Dhananjay Chauhan, the first transgender student at Panjab University.
Aimee Barua’s Screaming Butterflies won the Silver Conch award for Best Documentary Film (below 60 minutes) in the National Competition section. The jury remarked on the film’s “unflinching narration of the stories by the victims of cross-religious marriages who have bravely come forward to document their brutal victimisation”.
Shristipal Singh’s Geru Patra won the Silver Conch for Best Short Fiction Film (upto 45 minutes) in the National Competition section. The film follows a typist who gets embroiled with a woman for whom he types a letter.
In the Short Fiction category, Sudesh Balan’s Malayalam-language Saakshatkaaram shared the Silver Conch award with Danish director Gudmund Helsmsal’s Brother Troll.
Adithi Krishnadas’s Kandtitund! (Seen It), a black-and-white animated film based on the ghost stories and folklore of Kerala, won the Silver Conch for Best Animation Film in the National Competition section. The Best Animation Film went to Katarzyna Agopsowicz’s Prince in a Pastry Shop (Poland).
Nicola Piovesan’s Closed to the Light (Italy) won the Pramod Pati – Most Innovative/Experimental Film. In Closed to the Light, Piovesan recreates a massacre that took place during World War II . Various sets of characters are frozen, as though in a photograph. By moving between the characters, who change their positions whenever the camera is away from them, Piovesan captures through a tableau-like form the shock and horror of war.
The Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari Award for Best Debut Director went to Bimal Poddar’s Radha, about the relationship between an elderly woman and a young boy. The IDPA Award for Best Student Film was awarded to Rishi Bhaumik’s Megha, about a young girl who has a secret.
The jury noted Megha’s “rare use of animation to tackle a serious theme which is rarely spoken of even within family circles and for its unerring use of colour which enhances and underscores the poignancy of its theme”.
The Indian winners in the technical awards categories include Rafeeq Ellias for If Memory Serves Me Right, a tribute to the deceased Mumbai film critic Rashid Irani. Ellias shared the cinematography award along with Bernarda Corenjo Pinto for the German documentary Among Us Women.
Ellias’s “use of strong visuals made possible by his extensive use of an informal handheld camera” helps create “an instant empathy for the main character”, the jury noted.
The Best Sound Design award was shared by Jose Rommer (For Your Peace of Mind, Make Your Own Museum) and Pritam Das for Kicking Balls. “The outstanding work done by Pritam Das in the film Kicking Balls has presented the story as an amazing experience to the audience,” the jury stated.
The Best Editing award was shared by S Shanmuganathan for Dhobi Ghat and Sajed PC for Bamboo Ballads. About Shanmuganathan, the jury said, “Through the creative and lively editing, the editor structures the rhythm of life in Dhobi Ghat. He captures the life and also the uncertainty looming large on the inhabitants.”
Sajed PC won for “his crisp and seamless editing which helps to evenly pace out the film thus adding to its overall finesse,” the jury stated.
In his remarks, Chief Guest and Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari said that MIFF should be held annually instead as biennially, as is the case.