The AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival wrapped on June 27 with the announcement of its award winners, including the recipients of the U.S. and World Sterling Awards, and the Audience Awards.
Wo Ai Ni Mommy (I Love You, Mommy) claimed the Sterling U.S. Feature Award. Directed by Stephanie Wang-Breal, the documentary follows Chinese adoptee Fang Sui Yong and her adopted parents, a Jewish couple from Long Island, as they journey over the hurdles of an international adoption. Wang-Breal wins $5,000 cash. The Sterling U.S. Feature Jury said of her film, ‘The film dives so deeply into its story that the filmmaker’s hands disappear. She creates a profound connection between her characters and the story she’s telling. Above all, she dares to leave us with questions to which there are no easy answers.’
Special jury mentions went to Doug Block’s The Kids Grow Up, the second part of a trilogy following Block’s daughter preparing to leave for college, and Robin Hessman’s My Perestroika, a portrait of the five people who bridge the gap between pre- and post-Soviet Russia (which was also a realscreen MIPTV Pick this past April.
The Woman With the 5 Elephants won the Sterling World Feature Award. Directed by Vadim Jendreyko, the film chronicles the life of 85-year-old Svetlana Geier, considered the greatest translator of Russian literature into German, who has just completed new translations of Dostoyevsky’s five great novels, known as his ‘five elephants’. Geier also receives $5,000 cash.
Of The Woman With the 5 Elephants, the Jury said, ‘From a filmmaker at the top of his game, this film is a living Vermeer, beautifully framed, elegant and elegiac, with an artistic vision that mirrors and augments its subject. This graceful and compelling work explores how beauty and creativity can transcend the harshness of life, and the jury believes it will be as rewarding in 40 years as it is today.’
Special Jury Mention went to Steam of Life, from Joonas Berghall and Mike Hotakainen, which depicts Finnish men speaking their minds in the comfort of the sauna.
The Sterling Short Award was given to This Chair is Not Me, from director Andy Taylor Smith. The 10-minute short focuses on Alan Martin, who has cerebral palsy, and the technology that allowed him to finally have a voice.
Between Dreams, from Iris Olsson and The Poodle Trainer from Vance Malone both received special jury mentions.
Jeff Malmberg’s Marwencol won the Cinematic Vision Award. Malmberg will receive $5,000 of in-kind services from Alpha Cine, a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera valued at an additional $5,000, and a Sunday Best Barbie® for the ‘staged catfights’ depicted in Hogancamp’s Bar in the town of Marwencol, the minitaure WWII-era village created by Mark Hogancamp that is the centerpiece of Malmberg’s film.
The WITNESS Award went to Julia Bacha’s Budrus, a doc that explores a Palestinian village and its unlikely hero. Bacha received in-kind outreach support and tickets to the annual Witness Gala. Also, the WGA Documentary Screenplay Award wass awarded to Yael Hersonski for her film A Film Unfinished, which presents never-before-seen footage of a Nazi propaganda film. The award’s cash prize is $1,000 and the winner gets a one-year free membership in the WGAW Nonfiction Writers Caucus or WGAE Nonfiction Writers Committee Membership.
Lastly, the Audience Awards were given to feature doc Men Who Swim from Dylan Williams, and short Bye Bye Now directed by Aideen O’Sullivan and Ross Whitaker.