Montreal producers EyeSteelFilm were the big winners at the IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) Awards ceremony this weekend, garnering the VPRO IDFA Best Feature-length Documentary prize for their latest release Last Train Home. The debut film by Lixin Fan, who was associate producer on EyeSteel’s previous Chinese doc success Up the Yangtze had its European premiere at IDFA having begun its festival life two weeks earlier as the opening night feature at Quebec’s RIDM (Les rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montreal).
The prize, which consists of a sculpture and €12,500, was awarded to Fan, who was cited for directing a ‘a striking, honest film about a topic that is of relevance to the entire world,’ by a jury consisting of Tribeca creative officer Geoff Gilmore, African doc maker Jean-Marie Teno, Burma VJ director Anders Ostergaard and Finnish broadcast and print journalist Jenny Westergard. The film depicts the generational challenges encountered by the Zhang family as the parents struggle to generate enough income in one of China’s industrial cities to pay for the education of their children living back in their rural home village.
Lixin Fan, the young director of the film, spent considerable time over the past three years gaining the trust of the Zhangs. He comments: ‘I’m very honored and deeply humbled to receive this award. Last Train Home is a tribute to the working man and woman in the factory world. They bear the unbearable, and hope in the hopelessness. They are the true heroes of our times in this troubled world.’
Daniel Cross, co-founder of EyeSteelFilm and one of Fan’s producers adds: ‘It is a great honor to work with Lixin on such a powerful film that is being released at exactly the appropriate time for a global audience. I hope all our recent international successes help in stabilizing support for the theatrical documentary genre in our country, where frankly it seems to be in peril.’
Echoing Cross’ words is EyeSteel co-founder Mila Aung-Thwin. ‘This is like winning the Olympic gold medal. I think this win will help ensure that the film gets shown throughout the world.’ International sales are being represented through Catherine le Clef at CAT & Docs while Canadian distribution is by KinoSmith.
Other winners at IDFA included: Bong-Nam Park for Best Mid-Length Doc (€ 10,000) for Iron Crows (South Korea), about the largest ship-breaking yard in the world; Marcin Janos Krawczyk for Best Short Doc (€5,000) for Six Weeks (Poland); Ross McDonnell and Carter Gunn for Best First Appearance (€5,000) for Colony (Ireland/USA); John Appell for Best Dutch Documentary (€5,000) for The Player; Louie Psihoyos for the Audience Award (€5,000) for The Cove (USA) and Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno for the young people’s juried DOC U Award (€1,500) for The Yes Men Fix the World (France/USA).
IDFA wrapped on Sunday, November 29, with a record setting revenue of approximately €750,000, up by €50,000.