Doc/Fest ’15: “Syrian Love Story” takes Grand Jury Award

Sean McAllister's portrait of a Syrian activist family, A Syrian Love Story (pictured), has won the Grand Jury Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest.
June 10, 2015

Sean McAllister’s portrait of a Syrian activist family, A Syrian Love Story, has won the Grand Jury Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest.

The awards for the UK festival – which kicked off on June 5 and ends today (June 10) – were presented at a ceremony at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre this afternoon.

A Syrian Love Story - which enjoyed its world premiere at the festival – follows the story of an activist couple that first met in a Syrian jail and flees to Lebanon with their children to escape violence across the country. McAllister follows the family over five years as they live in exile.

Jury members for the top prize included journalist Kaleem Aftab, filmmaker John Akomfrah, CNEX’s Ruby Chen, producer Sigrid Dyekjaer and the Tribeca Film Institute’s Alexandra Hannibal.

Commenting on the film, jury representative Chen said: “The jury were enamored by this Bergmanesque portrait of a relationship and love, taking place against an ever-changing and tumultuous backdrop. Delivering unusual gender portraits it explores vulnerabilities, looking at the concept of belonging, providing a unique and intimate portrait of disillusionment.”

McAllister’s doc beat out 11 other contenders, including A Sinner in MeccaA Young Patriot. Cartel Land, Good GirlOrion: The Man Who Would Be KingPortraits of a SearchTea Time, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the RevolutionThe Confessions of Thomas QuickThe Hunting Ground and The Russian Woodpecker.

Elsewhere, the festival’s Environmental Award was given to Jerry Rothwell’s Greenpeace doc How to Change the World , with the jury noting that “the complicated relationships were captivatingly Shakespearean, a powerful dramatic narrative of how individual passion is transformed into organizational activism.”

The jury also handed out a special mention to Graham Townsley and Brad Allgood’s Landfill Harmonic, noting that it was “an inspirational, emotional and passionate film recalling the power of music to raise its protagonists above and beyond their physical circumstances.”

Meanwhile, the Youth Jury Award went to Marc Silver’s 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets, on a Florida shooting of unarmed black teenagers, and the Student Doc Award was given to Benjamin Huguet’s The Archipelago, on the inhabitants of the Faroe Islands and the practice of whaling.

The festival’s Tim Hetherington Award – which honors the life of the late photojournalist and humanitarian – was presented to Cartel Land director Matthew Heineman, while the Inspiration Award went to former festival director Heather Croall.

Rounding out the awards is the Short Doc Award, which was given to Michael Szczesniak’s Starting Point; while the Interactive Award went to Gabo Arora and Chris Milk’s Clouds over Sidra, with a special mention for Brett Gaylor’s Do Not Track; and Rikke Houd’s The Woman on the Ice took home the In the Dark Audio Award.

The festival’s audience award is to be announced on Monday (June 15).


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