Dawn was named Best Fiction Feature Photo: Courtesy of Calvert Film Journal
Latvian film Dawn, directed by Laila Pakalnina was named the Best Fiction Feature, with the jury saying: “In Dawn, the director handles with subtlety and depth her ambiguity and willfully elusive intentions. A very complex film, where one feels going through a range of emotions, in a familiar, yet strange, imaginative world. A blend of culture, history, political, and social commentary, all wrapped up in a visually exquisite world that is as appealing, as it is informative.”
Eric Bednarski's Warsaw: A City Divided took the prize for Best Documentary Feature. The jury said: “This documentary contextualises rare, archival found footage of the Warsaw Ghetto with personal testimony from survivors, and reflections on its modern-day legacy, to shed light on its place within the Holocaust, as well as Polish history.”
Ilze Burkovska-Jacobsen's My Favourite War was named Best Animation. The jury said: “Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen uses animation inventively to bring the past to life and emphasise the emotional themes of the director’s personal history. It helps make the subject of propaganda accessible for younger, as well as older audiences.”
In the short film categories, History of Civilization, directed by Zhannat Alshanova - who was praised by the jury for her "unique cinematic style" was named Best Short, while Microcassette — The Smallest Cassette I’ve Ever Seen, directed by Igor Bezinovic and Ivana Pipal was described by the jury as "a smart, memorable and fun-to-watch piece of storytelling".
Weronika Jurkiewicz, meanwhile, took home the Best Student Film gong for The Vibrant Village, with the jury praising her short documentary for telling an "intriguing story full of life-breathing details".
Over the course of two weeks, the 2021 festival screened 35 movies, with films from across six competition categories. A special audience choice award was also given to one film from across all categories, including the out-of-competition special screenings section.
The winning pictures were selected by an independent jury: Ukrainian producer Natalia Libet, Czech anthropologist and documentarian Pavel Borecký, New Zealand-born, Berlin-based film critic and curator Carmen Gray, Bosnian actor and educator Selma Alispahić, Kosovan filmmaker Norika Sefa, Lithuanian director Romas Zabarauskas, Latvian programmer Zane Balčus, Eye For Film's Amber Wilkinson, and Kazakh filmmaker Adilkhan Yerzhanov.
The competing films were judged based on their authenticity and originality in voice, storytelling, and aesthetic approach, as well as the insights they provide into the human experiences and issues confronted in Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia.