‘Radiograph of a Family,’ ‘Gorbachev. Heaven’ Win Top Awards at IDFA

Iranian director Firouzeh Khosrovani has won the IDFA award for best feature-length documentary with “Radiograph of a Family,” a film that uses an intimate study of her parents’ marriage—her father was secular, Westernized and progressive, while her mother was a devout, traditional Muslim—to explore the divisions in Iranian society both in the run-up and aftermath of the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

The jury, which comprised Marie-Pierre Macia, Ed Lachman, Alice Diop, Abdelkader Benali, and Finn Halligan, praised Khosrovani for the strength of her storytelling, adding, “The fractured body of family life is told through images, photos, and enactments in such a way that the viewer, too, feels the loss.”

Contacted by Zoom, the director screamed with delight. “I’m honored,” she said, after taking a second or two to collect her thoughts. “I have no words to express how happy I am,” she enthused. “I just want to thank my team [for] the lovely teamwork that I had, and I want to extend my appreciation to IDFA for their moral support, their financial support, and my lovely producers … This is a lifetime project—it took four years—and the whole time they supported me with love and passion.”

Taking the award for best director was Russia’s Vitaly Mansky, whose “Gorbachev. Heaven” offered a profile of the 89-year-old former leader of the Soviet Union. Mansky thanked his team, asked viewers to raise a glass to his “co-author” and subject Mikhail Gorbachev, and praised the festival for its handling of the event in “the rough, unpleasant leap year of 2020,” having been one of just seven international guests this year. Best editing went to the anonymous directors behind the Hong Kong protest doc “Inside the Red Brick Wall,” and best cinematography went to “Nemesis,” a study of Zurich’s changing cityscape, filmed and directed by Thomas Imbach.

The IDFA Competition for First Appearance was won by Ukrainian director Alina Gorlova for “This Rain Will Never Stop,” which the jury, comprising Diana Elbaum, Hubert Sauper, Intishal Al Timimi, Els Vandevorst, and Christoph Terhechte, described as “a powerful story that does not allow us to escape from the destruction and heart-wrenching losses of wars.” A special mention went to Diane Sara Bouzgarrou and Thomas Jenkoe for “The Last Hillbilly.”

In other awards, the prize for mid-length documentary was awarded to Nomin Lkhagvasuren for “The Wheel” with a special mention for “The Blue House” by Hamedine Kane. The FIPRESCI Award was given to Ahmed Abd for “The Fifth Story.”

Unusually, the traditional DocLab prizes were abandoned.

Addressing the awards event via avatar, head of new media Caspar Sonnen sympathized with this year’s entrants for the “hurdles and hoops” they had surmounted. “When it became clear that our jurors were unable to travel to Amsterdam this year,” he said, “and we saw that it was not going to be possible to have each DocLab project be judged equally, we decided to present an alternative scheme to honor and award the artists in DocLab competitions. With COVID being far from over, and business being far from back to usual, we know that, moving forward from IDFA, these artists will have to again be flexible and readapt their works.”

In lieu of the usual awards, then, DocLab has decided instead to take the collective prize money of both competitions, raise it to a total of €15,000 with extra money from its R&D program, and invite the artists in competition to apply for creative COVID response support, in order to present their work to new audiences online, physically, or in virtual reality. Sonnen added that full details will be announced online soon.

For the full list of winners, see the IDFA website here.

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