‘The Last Days of the Hospital,’ ‘Fixing the War,’ ‘The Shadow of Yoluja’ Pick Up Top Industry Prizes at Visions du Réel

Two new cash prizes introduced this year in Swiss film festival Visions du Reel’s industry section, VdR-Industry, were among a flurry of awards handed out as the program wrapped in Nyon, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

The Eurimages Co-production Development Award, created to promote the fund’s role in encouraging international co-production from the initial stages of a project, and which comes with a cash prize of €20,000 ($22,000), went to “The Last Days of the Hospital” by Mehran Tamadon (“My Worst Enemy,” “Bassidji”).

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Set in a psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of Paris, it tells the story of a group of patients invited to take over the wards as the health personnel gradually leave amid a crisis in the health sector.

A visibly moved Tamadon picked up the award, thanking the entire VdR-Industry team for organizing “such amazing pitching sessions.” The Franco-Iranian director was thrilled with the prize which he told Variety was a great stepping stone as he seeks further funding from France’s CNC ahead of shooting, which is due to start after the summer.

The jury, composed of Eleni Chandrinou from Eurimages, Swiss director-producer Vadim Jendreyko and Susana Santos Rodrigues, co-director of the IndieLisboa International Film Festival, said: “The jury decided in favor of a project that is both challenging and urgent. The director is immersed and immerses us, the audience, in a world that is beyond our comfort zone. An unconventional approach that questions our perception of people living in a mental health institution. In the harsh reality of the death of a public hospital, the film constructs a utopia where the patients become people.”

The additional Special Eurimages Co-production Development Award, aimed at supporting a Ukrainian co-production in development, which also comes with a cash prize of €20,000 ($22,000), went to “Fixing the War” by Clare Stronge and Vadym Ilkov, described by its makers as the first film that will show the crucial role of fixers in news journalism.

“The jury chose to award an intimate, raw and experiential European co-production that will go behind the curtain of news creation to show the people that really make it happen. This film gives a key to understanding how the media function in the 21st century – seen from the trenches of both war and news creation,” said the jury.

The coveted Visions Sud Est award, Switzerland’s national fund designed to encourage independent filmmaking in countries with low production capacity, was awarded to Colombia’s Hanz Rippe Gabriel for “The Shadow of Yolüja.”

It tells the story of members from the Wayuu indigenous community who confront Yolüja, the shadow of the night and, in doing so, bid farewell to the souls of their ancestors who were displaced from their ancestral lands.

The jury, composed of Zsuzsi Bánkuti, head of Open Doors Locarno Film Festival, Meret Ruggle, co-director of Swiss distributor Trigon-film, and John Canciani, artistic director of Switzerland’s short film festival Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, said that after extensively discussing the eligible projects, they decided to award “a young and enthusiastic team that has a clear vision, who are currently researching a story linked to a local community that carries significant global relevance.”

The award comes with a cash prize of CHF 10,000 ($11,000).

Altogether, over CHF 100,000 ($110,000) worth of prizes were distributed to 16 projects across a number of industry showcases.

The VdR-Industry jury, comprised of Kristy Matheson, head of festivals at the British Film Institute, Rémi Burah, CEO and selection committee member at ARTE France Cinema, and Lisa Chanoff Kleiner, co-founder at Catapult Film Fund, deliberated over numerous cash and in-kind awards across the VdR-Pitching and VdR-Work in Progress showcases.

This included the Xe Award, which comes with a CHF 5,000 ($5,500) in cash awarded to the most promising co-production pitching. It went to “Life of Tipu” by Bob Gallagher, about Irish-Bangladeshi artist Salvatore of Lucan, who discovered his estranged father Tipu via a mysterious Facebook message in 2018, and sets off on an odyssey to find out the truth about him.

“For the 2024 Xe Award, the jury selected a film that we greatly admired for its poignant and playful approach. Through the lens of the artistic process, the film explores the complexity of familial relations and migration.”

The same jury handed out the Lightdox Award, a cash prize of €3,000 ($3,300) for a project in the VdR-Work in Progress program, to “At Least to See the Ocean” by Pablo Lozano – the story of 14-year-old Josephina, the new girl in school in a marginal neighborhood in the Dominican Republic, who puts on a play with her new friends, revealing a complex world of violence in the Caribbean.

“Dreams of the Wild Oaks” by Marjan Khosravi, about a young girl’s race against time to escape a forced marriage in rural Iran, won both the Unifrance and the Party Sales awards, and the RTS pre-sale award went George Fairbanks’ “She Wrestles,” which explores the growth of women’s wrestling in the U.S.

The TËNK Opening Scenes Award, an acquisition of a finished film from the Opening Scenes program dedicated to first short films or student films, was awarded to “Mawtini” by Tabarak Allah Abbas, who brings to life her parents’ story in war-torn Iraq through Japanese-inspired anime.

“TAU” by Timofey Stekolshuk, described as “a gonzo report from the heart of a media whirlwind of the 1990s in Russia,” picked up the new No Nation Films Award, consisting of a fellowship with filmmaking duo Diana El Jeiroudi and Orwa Nyrabia for a project from a low-production capacity country.

For VdR’s new head of Industry Alice Burgin, the outstanding quality of the many projects this year are proof of a non-fiction landscape that is alive and kicking, and VdR-Industry’s crucial role within it.

“The increasingly prominent role played by the VdR-Industry awards on the international documentary landscape is a testament to the continuing importance of non-fiction stories to challenge, inspire and enrich our lives,” she said, adding: “With our awards partners, we are able to recognize and celebrate the power of bold, risk-taking projects showcased in our market.

“Our hope is that, in these difficult times, these awards can encourage filmmakers from all over the world to continue to pursue their passion to tell the salient stories of our time.”

VdR-Industry ran alongside Visions du Réel in Nyon from April 14 through to April 17.

Find the full list of the award recipients below:

Eurimages Co-production Development Award
€ 20,000 in cash, this award has been created to promote the fund’s role in encouraging
international co-production from the initial stages of a project.
“The Last Days of the Hospital” by Mehran Tamadon
Production: TS Productions (France) and Box Productions (Switzerland).
€ 20,000 in cash surprise prize
“Fixing the War” by Vadym Ilkov and Clare Stronge
Production: Moon Man (Ukraine) and Plainsong Films (Ireland)

Visions Sud Est Award
CHF 10,000 in cash awarded to the best project from the South (Africa, Latin America and Asia) or from Eastern Europe (according to SDC’s eligibility country list) presented at either the VdR–Pitching, VdR–Work In Progress or VdR–Rough Cut Lab.
“The Shadow of Yolüja” by Hanz Rippe Gabriel
Production: Páramo Films (Colombia)

RTS Award
A RTS pre-buy of one project pitched at the VdR–Pitching showcase.
“She Wrestles” by Charles Fairbanks
Production: She Wrestles Production (U.S.)

Xe Award
CHF 5,000 in cash awarded to the most promising co-production pitching as part of the
VdR–Pitching showcase.
“Life of Tipu” by Bob Gallagher
Production: EZ Films (Ireland), Homebird Productions (India)

The Party Film Sales Award
€ 5,000 including a cash contribution of €2,500 awarded to one project with strong international potential.
“Dreams of the Wild Oaks” by Marjan Khosravi
Production: Seven Springs Pictures (Iran), Lukimedia (Spain), Avant la Nuit (France)

Lightdox Award
€3,000 in cash awarded to the project with highest international potential at the VdR–Work in
Progress showcase.
“At Least to See the Ocean” by Pablo Lozano
Production: La Felicidad (Dominican Republic)

Unifrance Doc Award in partnership with TitraFilm
Subtitles creation (to the value of €2,300), sponsored by TitraFilm and one Unifrance
membership (value of €1,590) for the French producer attached to the project.
“Dreams of the Wild Oaks” by Marjan Khosravi
Production: Seven Springs Pictures (Iran), Lukimedia (Spain), Avant la Nuit (France)

TËNK Post-Production Award
Sound post-production facilities at Tënk Studios (France) including two weeks in the mixing
studio and one week in the auditorium.
“Beyond the Fold” by Ross McClean
Production: Here and Elsewhere Films (U.S.), Nightstaff (Ireland), Little Rose Films

TËNK Opening Scenes Award
Purchase of distribution rights for one film of the Opening Scenes section.
“Mawtini” by Tabarak Allah Abbas
Production: Akka Films (Switzerland), Size Media (Switzerland), Head – Genève

Raggioverde Subtitling Award
Subtitles creation included translation in one language.
“The Myth of Mahmoud” by Shaima Al Tamimi & Mayar Hamdan
Production: Y2P Studios (Qatar)

Downtown Studios Award
Creation of a DCP package for one project pitched at the VdR–Work In Progress showcase.
“The Myth of Mahmoud” by Shaima Al Tamimi and Mayar Hamdan
Production: Y2P Studios (Qatar)

Cannes Docs Award
Invitation to feature as a Cannes Docs “Spotlighted Project,” including two complimentary
Marché du Film/Cannes Film Festival badges valid for the 2024 or 2025 edition.
“Magnetic Letters” by Demie Dangla
Production: Dynamo Production (France), Seera Films (Germany)

DOK Leipzig Award
Two accreditations and four nights accommodation at DOK Leipzig and observer access to the DOK
Co-Pro Market for the filmmaker and producer for the 2024 or 2025 edition.
“Pratopia” by Sean Ali Wang
Produced by Muyi Film (Netherlands)

DAE Encouragement Award
Two free consultations with network members tailored to the needs of the project.
“Pratopia” by Sean Ali Wang
Produced by Muyi Film (Netherlands)

No Nation Films Award
One No Nation Films Fellowship including guidance, mentorship, and counsel toward
completing their feature-length documentary films for one project from a low capacity country.
“TAU” by Timofey Stekolshuk
Production: Independent Film Project (Georgia), Eversince (Germany)

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