Welcome to Chechnya Wins 2020 Online Edition of Thessaloniki Documentary Festival


    THESSALONIKI: The 22nd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival gave its Golden Alexander award and a cash prize of 15,000 EUR to Welcome to Chechnya by David France (USA). The festival, which concludes on 28 May 2020, distributed 72,000 free tickets and sold out 113 documentaries in eight days.


    The jury of the International Competition Feature Length section of the 22nd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival was comprised by Greek director Marco Gastine, French director Claire Simon, and IndieWire editor at large Anne Thompson.

    In its statement, the jury said: “This chilling docuthriller lifts the curtain on a largely ignored humanitarian crisis in the Muslim Russian federal republic of Chechnya, where the persecution of homosexuals is ongoing: they are hunted, imprisoned, tortured and even killed, in an effort to liquidate LGBTQ Chechens. The film introduces us to the brave queer community based in Moscow, that has pulled together to rescue people from Chechnya via a vast underground railroad taking them to safety. The activists organise escapes and safe houses in unknown cities as the refugees wait, often for months, for a country willing to accept them, amid the constant danger of being killed. Also notable is the filmmaker’s innovative deployment of visual effects that changed the faces of the protagonists in order to protect their identities, without drawing away attention from the narrative. 22 people — mostly queer activists in New York — lent their faces as a physical shield to protect the people in the film. By documenting this resistance, the filmmaker enables us to experience what it means to escape from persecution, losing everything that your life was made of, while also discovering a warm and nurturing community.”

    The Special Jury Award accompanied by a cash prize of 5,000 EUR went to the documentary Acasă, My Home by Radu Ciorniciuc (Romania, Finland, Germany).

    The jury’s statement read: “This “big little film” focuses on “the others”, whose point of view it singularly embraces, which deeply challenges us because it questions our certainties. Filmed in the watery delta just outside Bucharest, Romania, this cinéma vérité contests the boundaries between freedom and society, between nature and civilisation, between difference and identity. Should we impose our conception of happiness, as laudable as it may be, to those who do not want it? This is the question asked by Acasa, My Home, the beautiful and moving documentary by Radu Ciorniciuc.”


    The jury of the International Competition Newcomers of the 22nd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival was comprised by Philippe Bellaïche, director, producer, director of photography from France, Catherine Le Clef, French sales agent, and Alexandre O. Philippe, director from USA and Switzerland. They gave the Golden Alexander Newcomers award, accompanied by a cash prize of 8,000 EUR, to the documentary Walchensee Forever by Janna Ji Wonders (Germany)

    The jury said in its statement: “Sometimes, personal films become more than intimate family portraits —they take on the qualities and veneer of fairy tales. The 2020 Newcomers Grand Prize goes to a brilliant film, directed with honesty and generosity, that slowly unveils and unravels the lives of multiple generations of women — each of them lovable, rich, generous, and free in their own way. For its elegant use of family archives, cinematography, and heartfelt storytelling, the Golden Alexander Award goes to Walchensee Forever by Janna Ji Wonders.”

    Τhe Special Jury Award accompanied by a cash prize of 3,000 EUR went to the documentary Lady Time by Elina Talvensaari (Finland)

    The jury said, “This year’s Newcomers Special Jury Prize goes to a remarkably assured first feature, which gracefully attempts to reconstruct a past life on the brink of oblivion, weaving an emotional bond between the living and the dead through artifacts, photographs, and fragmented memories. Lady Time by Elina Talvensaari is a beautifully crafted gem of a film, and we were moved by its sensitivity, empathy, and inventive stylistic approach.”


    The jury of the International Competition >>Film Forward of the 22nd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival comprised by Gürcan Keltek, director (Turkey), Maria Tsantsanoglou, art historian (Greece), and Eduardo Williams, director (Argentina) gave the Golden Alexander »Film Forward award, accompanied by a cash prize of 3,000 EUR to the documentary The Year of the Discovery by Luis López Carrasco (Spain)

    The jury statement said, “Carrasco takes us to the daily life of people from different social classes and ages and with a variety of political ideas that interpret with sincerity the present, while looking back at the past and thus writing a history chapter freed from any kind of manipulations. He uses testimonies from both past and present times and playfully blurs timelines in order to show that very little has changed in Spain since the 1990s: working class is still being crushed by both ruling class and the state.”


    The Mermaid Award is presented by the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival to the best LGBTQI-themed film from the Festival’s official selection. The jury comprised by Manolis Kranakis, film critic (Greece), Selin Murat, producer, film programmer at the Montreal International Documentary Film Festival (Turkey), and Debra Zimmerman, executive director of Women Make Movies (USA) bestowed the Mermaid award to the documentary Welcome to Chechnya by David France (USA).

    The jury said, “For its bold, fearless depiction of the atrocities faced by the LGBTQ+ community in Russia - a vivid reflection of what is going on around the globe, even in so called privileged places of the world where anti-discrimination laws have already been established and LGBTQ+ rights have been won. For its deep humane way of dealing with personal stories and its strong belief that there's a way to change the world through activism, personal risk and, foremost, by not giving up. By "giving face" to the victims of the persecutions by Chechnya's government, through a monumental usage of VFX effects, the film becomes in itself an important act of political and cinematic activism, the beginning of a movement that we need and we all hope it will lead to a greater change.” 

    Special mention went to the documentary: Madame by Stéphane Riethauser (Switzerland) with the jury stating, “For its inventive use of music and archives in an intimate video diary that succeeds in breaking the boundaries of a boy’s personal confession/coming out to his grandmother to become a moving universal essay on the concepts of toxic masculinity, patriarchy, homophobia and femininity, as well as an act of reconciliation between the past and the present in a world that's struggling to change.”


    The “Human Values Award” (presented by the Hellenic Parliament) Jury consisting of Kostas Dimos, programme director, Aris Fatouros, director, programme consultant, and Vassilis Douvlis, film director, head of programme awarded the best film in the Newcomers International Competition section to The Self Portrait by Katja Høgset, Margreth Olin, and Espen Wallin (Norway).The jury said, “The film gives prominence to the value of human life, dignity, as well as the vital force of art, by taking a glance at the agonising effort of Norwegian photographer Lene Marie Fossen to fight back the devious and devouring disease she's suffering from, drawing out of it the incentive to create”.


    The ERT Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation award accompanied by a 3,000 EUR cash prize to the Greek documentary over 50 minutes that wins the FIPRESCI Award to went to The Music of Things by Menios Carayannis (Greece)


    The Greek Film Centre bestowed its award and a 3,000 EUR cash prize to a debut documentary film over 50΄ that premieres in the Greek Program section. It went to Nikos Karouzos – Poems on a Tape Recorder by Yannis Karpouzis (Greece)


    The Amnesty International Jury awards the best film with the tag #humanrights to Aswang by Alyx Ayn Arumpac (Philippines, France, Norway, Qatar, Germany)


    The FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Award went to Welcome to Chechnya by David France (USA)

    FIPRESCI award for the best Greek film went to The Music of Things by Menios Carayannis (Greece)



    The WIFT GR Award is presented by the Greek Chapter of WIFT (Women in Film & Television) and goes to a woman filmmaker of a film that promotes non-stereotype views on gender and participates in the festival’s official programme. The prize went to Katerina Patroni for the documentary The Fourth Character.



    The Youth Jury gave its Best Film Award to Good Morning, Mr Fotis by Dimitra Kouzi (Greece)

    Special Jury Award went to In-mates by Iakovos Panourgias, Nikos Voulgaris (Greece)


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