Versatile Irish director Paddy Breathnach delivers contemporary Cuba in all its beauty and shabbiness, vibrancy and conflicts. Viva is a superbly written and acted story about one young man's life--one family and one drag club in one neighborhood in one city. At the same time, this compelling film presents the complexity of human relationships and the universality of what it means to love oneself and other people even when that love is challenged, self-awareness and acceptance, abandonment and forgiveness. An effervescent musical score is also at the heart of this film which works its way into audience hearts.
Special Jury Award: 3000 NIGHTS
An accomplished documentarian, 3000 Nights is the first feature from director Mai Masri, who constructs fiction rooted in reality. Filmed entirely on location in an actual prison, the story is depicted with sensitivity, subtlety and conviction. A compelling mother's love is matched with integrity and resilience. The power of the characters, the touching dialogue, the cinematically poetic frames touch on the larger universal humanity. Raw emotions are mixed with deeply moving interactions between mother and son. Despite the storyline this is not a dark film. The final feeling is one of female strength and power.
From the Jury for the Signis Award
Signis Award: PATHS OF THE SOUL
Director Zhang Yang combines stunning cinematographic vistas with intimate details to track the pilgrimage by foot of eleven rural Tibetan Buddhists over steep mountains, across streams, and winding roads to their sacred city of Lhasa. The journey of 1200 miles and many months is a metaphor of an inner journey as well, marked by untiring dedication no matter what obstacles they face. The pilgrims exhibit kindness, joy, and respect not only towards each other but also towards the strangers they meet. While specific to a particular Tibetan culture, the film speaks to a common yearning for a sense of transcendence, goodness, and well-being.
Behavior (Conducta), set in contemporary Cuba, is the story of an empathetic experienced schoolteacher on the verge of her retirement. Carmela goes beyond obligation to personally help two students with issues arising out of their extreme poverty, defending them against harsh and rigid application of rules by an administration which favours the law over love. The film makes a plea for a more humane society in which the lives of everyone, especially the marginalized, also count.
From the Jury for the First Feature Award
First Feature Award: MAGALLANES
Director Salvador Del Solar's film is set in contemporary Lima. His film explores themes of memory, guilt, power, corruption, justice, and survival wrapped in a story that unfolds as a gripping political thriller. Filled with a gallery of richly nuanced performances.
It's a film marked by a clear dramatic vision, an assured visual style, and the hand of a director—who is himself a veteran performer—that guides his actors to find often-surprising heart and depth in their roles. The characters in Magallanes have all been damaged by the legacy of the past, and are linked by its echoes in the present. Their struggle to release its hold makes for a powerfully told, compellingly acted film. We congratulate Salvador Del Solar for creating Magallanes, and are grateful for the support of the Embassy of Quatar in recognizing that achievement with the First Feature Award.
From the Jury for the Shorts Award
Winner: NKOSI COIFFURE
The winner of the 2016 Short Film Award goes to Belgium filmmaker, Frederike Migom's first film, Nkosi Coiffure about a woman who stumbles into an African hair salon in a Brussels Congolese neighborhood. This film captures the moment when diversity and the universality of being human intersect and it does so with originality and insight. We are very happy to have the opportunity to support this young filmmaker and we look forward to seeing what's next for her.
Honorable Mention: WIFEY REDUX
We would also like to acknowledge with an Honorable Mention, Robert McKeon's Wifey Redux for excellence in adaptation from a short story. And we would also like to acknowledge two films from Australia: the accomplished and especially delightful short film, The Orchestra for originality in animation (this film will convince you that life does have a soundtrack) and the live action short, Goodnight Sweetheart for the masterful performances of its two lead actors.
From the Jury for the Justice Matters Award
This ground breaking first feature from Guatemalen director Jayro Bustamante is not just a window into a disappearing culture but the direct expression of a native voice. Rather than a didactic approach to storytelling, this layered narrative subtly unfolds and is told through the indigenous language, Kaqchikel. The film breaks the silence of the Mayan people, addressing issues of indentured servitude, repression of women, struggle for survival, migration and trafficking of stolen infants.
The extraordinary artistic quality of this film and the power of its visual storytelling make it a perfect candidate for the Justice Matters focus on the marriage of art and social justice.