Farming harvests Michael Powell at EIFF

Aurora, Sakawa and The Call also among winners

by Amber Wilkinson

Farming Photo: Courtesy of EIFF
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's debut feature Farming has taken home the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The film, which received its UK premiere at the festival, tells the story of a boy who is left with a British foster family by his Nigerian parents and who falls in with a brutal skinhead gang. Damson Idris, who takes on the central role of Enitan, also won the award for Best Performance in a British Feature Film.

The Michael Powell Jury - Antonia Campbell-Hughes, David Hayman and Philip John - said: “The unanimous decision of the Michael Powell Jury goes to an important, powerful and disturbing film from Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. This story forces us to confront an unfamiliar, uncomfortable reality. Farming keeps you invested in its brutal world. Culturally adrenalising. Visceral. Inspirational.”

Speaking about Idris, they added: “Damson Idris takes us on an uncompromising journey. It was the most complete characterisation the Michael Powell Jury saw, bringing emotional truth to every frame. Idris creates a visceral yet disciplined performance taking us into the world of a deeply conflicted individual in search of his identity.”

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have received this prestigious award, named after one of my cinematic heroes, for my first film. It is a huge and humbling honour. I am equally delighted that Damson Idris won for Best Performance. Thank you so much to the Festival.”

Idris said: “I am truly blessed and honoured to receive such a prestigious award. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s life and triumph was shared with me in the most intimate manner and I am so pleased it is now being shared and celebrated by the world.”

The Award for Best International Feature went to Finnish director Miia Tervo’s Aurora - about a love affair between an Iranian and a Finn - which also received its UK Premiere at this year’s Festival.

Aurora Photo: Courtesy of EIFF
The International Jury, comprising Natalie Brenner, Jack Lowden and Fred Tsui, said: “We couldn’t have asked for a more distinctive, varied and thought-provoking selection. It was wonderful to see a particular focus on women directors and female lead characters in stories that provoked plenty of discussion, reflection and debate. From this fascinating selection we have unanimously chosen Aurora: beautifully shot and executed, with brilliant performances from the entire cast.

"Our main reason for choosing Aurora is for its uniqueness and originality. We completely fell in love with every single character, big or small, all flawed yet beautiful and set in a world that we were reluctant to leave. Made with such a strong voice, with clever humour and a big heart. A true gem and, for us, the discovery of the festival.”

Tervo said: “I am very grateful and delighted to hear about this wonderful news. I am so happy to hear that our work has given something to you. That is the most important thing - that the film gives something meaningful to people. Giving and receiving - so I receive this prize as wholeheartedly as I did the film.”

Debut director Ben Asamoah won the Best Documentary Award - chosen by William Guentzler, Daniel Monzón and Larushka Ivan-Zadeh - for Sakawa, about a group of young Ghanaians who turn to internet fraud and black magic to help them with a desperate situation.

The jury said: “The award for best documentary at the Edinburgh International Film Festival goes to Sakawa. The highly sophisticated debut from Belgian-Ghanaian filmmaker Ben Asamoah is a timely and unsettling metaphor for our interconnected world.”

Director Ben Asamoah said: ”Film festivals like the EIFF are the ones that encourage people like myself to think outside the box when it comes to storytelling”

The Call, by Anca Damian, was named Best Short Film, while Special Mentions were given to The Fabric of You (Dir: Josephine Lohoar Self) and Red Film (Dir: Sara Cwynar). This year’s jury was comprised of Moyo Akandé, Regina Mosch and Tara Karajica.

The Short Film Jury said: “We decided to give the Best Short Film Award to The Call by Anca Damian for the highly imaginative, unique and poetic way of using animation to show what we can’t see; to get the important and relevant topics of loss and grief in families across in a very short period of time. The Call is a powerful, moving, engaging and visually exceptional film.”

Anca Damian said: “I am really delighted to hear that my 10-minute film about eternity resonated in the jurors’ hearts.”

The winner of this year’s EIFF Works in Progress and recipient of the £2,500 prize is the documentary Women Behind the Wheel: Unheard Voices On The Pamir Highway, produced and co- directed by Hannah Congdon and Catherine Haigh.

The winners said: “We’re thrilled to have won this award among so many impressive projects! As first time filmmakers the money will be invaluable in helping us edit our documentary and share the stories of these inspirational women in Central Asia.”

The EIFF Youth New Visions short film competition in the 14-18 age category was won this year by The Processing Room by Cameron Lambert and Red Hill, made by Laura Carreira, in the 19-25 age group.

They each win a £300 cash prize.

The festival has also announced its Best of the Fest screenings. It will feature the following:

The festival will close with the world premiere of Mrs Lowry & Son on Sunday.

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