Read about the six award winners of the 17. Verzió!

Verzió awarded six creators of outstanding documentary films at the annual awards ceremony on 20 November. The members of the three juries presented the winners online, calling from various countries in order to be able to congratulate the happy filmmakers. Read their statements here! 

Best International Film / Human Rights Award: Welcome to Chechnya (David France, USA, 2020)

It was a great pleasure to watch all of the impactful films in this year’s selection, but one of them stood out due to the urgency of its topic: Welcome to Chechnya. David France’s documentary completely captured us with its portrayal of unbearable brutality and persecution suffered by the LGBTQI+ on a daily basis in Chechnya. This example of extreme and institutionalized violence and its complete impunity speaks of a great danger that any unprotected minority might face due to the global rise of authoritarian practices. 

Welcome to Chechnya portrays how despite all odds the community manages to stay resilient, and with the fearless support of the Russian LGBT Network, works on starting their lives anew. We particularly appreciated the great courage of the filmmakers, activists, and victims, with which they shared their story, even if it meant putting their lives at risk. We would also like to mention the filmmaker’s adherence to ethical values by creatively securing the anonymity of those involved. 

We strongly believe that this documentary serves as a very powerful awareness-raising tool about an issue whose importance and urgency is often overlooked and underestimated. 

Photo: Welcome to Chechnya

Special Mention: The Earth is Blue as an Orange (Iryna Tsilyk, Ukraine, Lithuania, 2020)

While all selected movies deserve special attention for their impactful messages, we believe that The Earth is Blue as an Orange stands out with its unique cinematic style and strong humanistic statement. The film’s depiction of daily intimate scenes of a family in war-torn Ukraine sheds light on processing the trauma of war through creative filmmaking. Hence, it is a love letter to the craft of cinema and its powerful capacity for social change. 

Its self-reflective techniques address the duality of fiction and non-fiction in cinematic language, while bringing a message of hope and resistance.

The members of the Student Jury awarding the Best Human Rights Film: Marilia Arantes, Bohdan Herkaliuk, Lucie Janotová, Danial Shah, Süll Kristóf

Best Student/Debut Film: Sonny (by Paweł Chorzępa, Poland, 2019)

The film, capturing some immensely poignant and extraordinary moments, elaborates a risky and tough subject while it gives an insight into a painful father-son relationship.

As it displays a modern documentarist approach in its better sense, it represents an authentic cinema in its finest and most traditional self. Authentic, of which metaphoric expression and visual storytelling form an integral part, and so does the authentic documentary with its best moments emerged from the pure and magic encounter of human and the camera.

The jury have particularly valued the filmmaker’s capacity in seizing the most intimate moments while preserving the underlying truth. Its modernity comes from the subtle dynamics of the camera’s interaction with the characters without any intention to intervene. It indicates the exceptional talent of a filmmaker who, owing to this fine balance, is able to take part in and document revelative moments, as well as to make empathetic observers out of the viewers.

Photo: Sonny

Student/Debut Film – Special Mention: Stunned, I Remain Alert (by Lucas H. Rossi dos Santos, Henrique Amud; Brasil, 2020)

With the aid of personal recollections and archive footages, filmmakers unfold a recent and somber period of Brazil. The jury have hugely appreciated the creators’ intention in engaging in the social remembrance by evoking and connecting personal stories with the collective trauma. The applied experimental techniques have been considered particularly successful as the makers deconstructed archive materials in order to make them the foundation of a reconstruction inciting remembrance. The conscious and reflexive use of personal tone and archive materials have resulted in a powerful film experience. The importance of the subject and the high quality of the creative realization equally render this documentary most worthy of the award.

The members of the International Jury awarding the Best Student/Debut Film: Nenad Puhovksi, Teréz Vincze, Giedre Žickyte

Best Hungarian Film: Give Me Shelter (Mihály Schwechtje, Hungary, 2020)

The jury chose Give Me Shelter as best film because it eloquently and powerfully narrates, through its protagonists and their stories, the struggle of a group of young women to overcome deep trauma caused by abuse and exploitation, and the monumental task of its providential character, Renata, the social worker who runs the shelter and becomes a mother figure to many of the residents. Portraying the victims of sexual exploitation is a difficult task, and this film does so with exquisite tact; its protagonists never lose their agency, even when they make wrong decisions or express deep vulnerabilities. We appreciate both the director's craft and his filming approach; his ability to integrate the personal stories of the shelter's dwellers with the events as they occurred during the filming. Through his lens, we observe without judging, we empathise without paternalizing. Based on genuine curiosity, the film becomes a cinematic journey to discover unknown destinies of our society. Schwechtje's camera finds a key angle to remain unobtrusive while retaining a feeling of closeness to the young women, and in the last minutes the film presents the audience with the ultimate gift: an ending to never forget. 

The members of the International Jury awarding the Best Hungarian Film: María Carrión, Csilla Kató, Peter Kerekes

Photo: Give Me Shelter

The audience could vote on their favourite film until 19 November, midnight. According to their votes, the winner of the Audience Award is Terminal Stage by directors Ilona Gaal and Balázs Wizner. The next most voted films following Terminal Stage are Tamás Barta - Hurry, Mom's Waiting at Home, Migration Studies, Give Me Shelter and 17 Blocks

Photo: Terminal Stage

Cover photo: Zoltán Adrián