Brussels Independent Film Festival: Winners Of The 2021 Atomium Film Awards Revealed
For 2021 edition of the Brussels Independent Film Festival, 113 films out of more than 2,500 entries from all over the globe were selected to be screened at different locations in the heart of Brussels. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation and government regulations, a live event was not in the cards on the foreseen dates. As previously announced, the Brussels Independent Film Festival team decided to postpone this year's screenings by a year. This means we will be hosting a double edition in 2022, in which both the 2021 and 2022 official selections will be screened.
However, an international team of 17 jury members was assembled to view and rate this year's selection. We are happy to share with you today the 2021 Atomium Film Award winners.
The prize for the Best Narrative Feature Film went to 'Murmur' (Canada) by Heather Young. “Donna has recently been convicted of “Driving While Impaired” and is ordered to perform community service at the local animal shelter. When an elderly dog is scheduled to be euthanized, Donna decides to take the dog home and quickly realizes his companionship can ease her loneliness. In a futile attempt to fill the emptiness she feels, Donna begins to take home more and more animals and she is soon in over her head.” The jury members especially appreciated the way director Heather Young creates a sense of isolation and loneliness. The impressive and realistic performance by the protagonist and the animals also stood out.
'Ala Kachuu - Take and Run' (Switzerland) by Maria Brendle received the award for Best Narrative Short Film.“Sezim (19) wants to fulfill her dream of studying in the Kyrgyz capital when she gets kidnapped by a group of young men and taken to the hinterland. There she’s forced to marry a stranger. If she refuses the marriage, she is threatened with social stigmatization and exclusion. Torn between her desire for freedom and the constraints of Kyrgyz culture, Sezim desperately seeks for a way out.” The jury team deemed this a very strong, very necessary film, and an absolute surprise. They admired the beautiful lensing, strong main character and good editing.
Best Documentary Feature Film went to 'The Damned - Stories of Slaughterhouse Workers' (France) by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt. “Slaughterhouse workers talk about their work. Their testimonies reveal how this “world apart”, at the very limits of the human condition, affects the health of workers. The film relates the daily battle men and women who work in slaughterhouses have to fight against their own emotions to hold on”. Through the course of their stories, the mental images that inhabit them are gradually revealed, and in places, one can guess all those they prefer not to deliver. Shot in the forest, a symbolic space of refuge and isolation, the documentary does not show any image captured in a slaughterhouse.” The jury members noted that it turns out that the words of those who are never heard and generally perceived as monsters are enough to replace any image. This unique perspective incites to a deeper reflection on the matter. Slaughterhouses are not only the stage of animal suffering, but the hidden face of a dehumanizing and alienating capitalism, in which animals as much as slaughterers are essentially reduced to capital. Our jury believes this to be a meaningful and important documentary, which strength specifically lies in its genuine humanistic dimension.
'My Own Landscapes' (France) by Antoine Chapon was awarded with Best Documentary Short Film. “A former military game designer was spotted in a video game competition organized by the army. Before going to war, he made video game scenarios that prepared soldiers to cultural shocks and healed trauma. Once back from the war, his relationship with his identity, with life and with the video game changed.” This film, examining a video game that was designed to train American and French soldiers, was found by our jury members to be a particularly intriguing look on virtual warfare or as the filmmaker describes it “video games for war”.
'The Natural Death of a Mouse' (Germany) by Katharina Huber won the prize for Best Animated Film. “Some days she imagines that by her sheer will she can make body parts fall off of people who seem vicious to her. And some other days everyone around her looks beautiful. And when she was little, she wished that flowers would grow out of her footprints.” The jury complimented the impressive visual approach and great storytelling in particular.
The award for Best Experimental Film was for 'Wild Grass' (Taiwan) by Shan Wu. “Following the journey of a Taiwanese woman from humid and dense Taipei to the yellow sprawl of L.A., the story reveals the conflict between expectations and reality while she finds herself struggling with a new language. She begins a relationship rooted in an imbalance of power with her American housemate. Her difficulties communicating lead to an awakening that forces her to look back on the culture that formed her, which she has been trying to escape. Through the protagonist confronting her own image and failures, 'Wild Grass' tells a story of reflection and an identity entangled with beauty, sexuality, nationality and two languages.” The jury members appreciated the film's amazing original images, as well as its very well structured storytelling. The perfect pace and apt slow build up were also thought to be of note.
Best Music Video went to 'CASS & LEX' (Germany) by Phillip Kaminiak. “In his directorial debut, Berlin and Mexico City-based cinematographer Kaminiak embarks on a personal project where he attempts to deal with his previous relationships by training a lens on real-life couple Cassandre Clerc and Johannes Lex. By documenting their lives and translating their relationship into Dance, 'CASS & LEX' tells a poem about the beauty and the horror of love.” The jury praised the great cinematography and editing, and saw in director Phillip Kaminiak a promising new voice.
And last but not least, Best Belgian Film was awarded to 'Da-Dzma (A Sister and a Brother)' (Belgium) by Jaro Minne. “Winter. A fifteen-year-old girl in a remote Georgian village tries to get closer to her older brother, just as he decides to leave home in search for work abroad.” Our jury members noted the way how in this film, many things are said without being pronounced. Although they are physically together and related, the characters only appear in their solitude, in the midst of incomplete communication. The jury admired how the slow pace, off-screen moments and metaphors subtly and brilliantly depict this teenage girl's isolation and suffering, in a family whose precarious situation forces them to migrate.
We would like to thank our international team of jury members for taking the time to view and appraise this year's great selection of films.
Yuki Takafumi (Japan), 5 times Emmy-nominated producer.
Kris De Witte (Belgium), world renowned photographer known for portraits of David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and many others.
Paul de Ruijter (Belgium), line producer and production manager (Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac, etc.).
Maarten Cornelis (USA), veteran film professional and founder of Producer's Nights Los Angeles.
June Beeckmans (Belgium), producer and production manager (Terence Davies' A Quiet Passion, etc.).
Tinne Bral (Belgium), film festival director and film distributor.
Felipe Mafasoli (Brazil), actor and director.
Jane Ching (Hong Kong), festival manager (Sundance Hong Kong, Hong Kong Arthouse Film Festival).
Cherise Silverstri (USA) actress, producer and film festival manager (Super Shorts London Film Festival).
Tab Goh (Belgium), visual artist and jury member for several film festivals.
Ana Corbi (USA), actress, artist and filmmaker.
Mieke Daneels (Belgium), actress/visual artist.
Veronica Ottaviano (Italy) film professional and team member of the Verona International Film Festival.
Sofie Hoflack (Belgium) actress, team member of the Doc.Berlin Documentary Film Festival.
Naomie Bessirard (France), natural born film critic.
Jonathan Hung (Hong Kong), film and theatre critic, filmmaker, film festival director.
Rainy Tao (Hong Kong), experienced film critic.
The Brussels Independent Film Festival found its inspiration with the Brussels International Independent Film Festival, which started in 1974 but ended in 2012. The festival focused on experimental, provocative films. Among others Pedro Almodóvar, François Ozon and Nanni Moretti were invited. Inspired by that original movement, the revived Brussels Independent Film Festival continues to emphasize lesser known, vanguard cinematic works and further its tradition of galvanizing budding talent. Most importantly, the festival creates a space for unique visionaries and voices, of both novices and veterans —with medium and low budgets— from all over the globe. Its goal is to create a warm, open atmosphere in which filmmakers, fans, critics, and producers can watch the films of emerging talents, explore new cinematic techniques and styles, and award cinematic excellence.
We hope to see you all in 2022 for an exciting live double edition!
Official selection 2021
Best Narrative Feature Film: Murmur (Canada) by Heather Young
Best Narrative Short Film: Ala Kachuu - Take and Run (Switzerland) by Maria Brendle
Best Documentary Feature Film: The Damned - Stories of Slaughterhouse Workers (France) by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt
Best Documentary Short Film: My Own Landscapes (France) by Antoine Chapon
Best Experimental Film: Wild Grass (Taiwan) by Shan Wu
Best Music Video: CASS & LEX (Germany) by Phillip Kaminiak
Best Animated Film: The Natural Death of a Mouse (Germany) by Katharina Huber
Best Belgian Film: Da-Dzma (A Sister and a Brother) (Belgium) by Jaro Minne
The Art Of Love (France) by Alejo Restrepo
Magic Kingdom (Hong Kong/U.S.) Nelson Ng Chak Hei
All that's left / Ce qui reste (Belgium) by Salvaire Hugo
Eva wishes (France) by Lisa Diaz
Sisyphus Dreaming (Hong Kong) by Jas Pun
Poise (Portugal) by Luís Soares
Mentally Al (U.S.) by Joshua Edelman
Round About (Germany) by Andreas Uranowicz
Wound Riders (U.S.) by Angel Barroeta
In Ashes (Norway) by Kjetil Engh Aasen
ASMR for White Liberals (U.S.) by John Connor Hammond
Lewiston (U.S.) by David Shayne, Jacob Roberts
Radio Sueño (Belgium) by Anna Verkouteren Jansen
Song of Clouds (Nepal) by Ankit Poudel
Moto (Canada) by Brian Dale Sokolowski
Drifting (China) by Hanxiong Bo
Dead Souls' Vacation (Georgia) by Keko Chelidze
A Quack Too Far (Ireland) by Melissa Culhane
Holding On, Letting Go (Singapore) by Lionel Seah
The Daydreamers (U.K.) by Thomas Renckens
The Statement (Brazil) by Amadeo Canônico
Unraveled (Spain) by Isabel Emily Katherine Wiegand, Asil Atay, Arden Colley, Kellie Fay
Tears Teacher (Japan) by Noemie Nakai
Big Touch (U.S.) by Christopher Tenzis
Trap (Turkey) by Seyid Çolak
Unflinching (Canada) by Celine Simpson
Retarded (Sweden) by Viking Almquist
Shredded (Israel) by Noam Stolerman
Darkness of Otherwhere (Japan) by Ayoub Qanir
My Son (South Korea) by Equan Choe
Christmas morning (U.S.) by Karni and Saul
Erebos (Belgium) by Janne Elens
The Cut (Canada) by Chloé Cinq-Mars
Who I Am / Celle que je suis (France) by Leïla Bakhchi
Jamie (U.K.) by Esmé Creed-Miles
Your Beautiful Rubber Brain (Netherlands) by Jelmer Wristers
Evie (U.K.) by Olive Pascha
The Wedding Cake (Sweden) by Monica Mazzitelli
Blank Canvas (U.S.) by Alisa Traskunov
Tender age (France) by Julien Gaspar-Oliveri
Among the Almond Trees (Belgium) by Marie Le floc'h
Born To Be (U.S.) by Tania Cypriano
Olyan Dolgok - Things like (Austria) by Kálmán Nagy
Hell Fire (Denmark) by Jesper Isaksen
West of Babylonia (Italy) by Emanuele Mengotti
Gum (U.S.) by Jacob Reed
A.WAY (Belgium) by Glenn Dumortier
Incident at school (Denmark) by Jacob Thomas Pilgaard
Exhibition (Germany) by Sylvia Borges
Preamble to the Instructions on How to Wind a Watch (Argentina) by Nicolas Kasakoff
The Dawn (U.S.) by N.P. Novack
Helfer (Hungary) by Anna Szöllősi
DARE! (Sweden) by Gustav Olsson
Festina Lente (Belgium) by Marius Lefever
Blindfold (Ukraine) by Taras
Croquis:: VRS (France) by Leyokki
Wanna Be Basquiat (Portugal) by João Pombeiro
No Name (Brazil) by Jens Ostberg, Gleeson Paulino
Another Horizon (U.S.) by Stephanie M Barber
The Real Person (Estonia) by Jaan Tätte
OMEGA II (France) by Blanchard Thomas
lophiile feat. NSTASIA | My Side (U.S.) by rubberband.
Kite (Portugal) by João Pombeiro
Born Like a Bullet (Chile) by Jimmy Fernandez
TREi & Jabz MC – Magma (New Zealand) by Jamie Wanstall
Demasiadas Mujeres (Spain) by Santos Bacana
Serves us right (U.K.) by Jola Kudela
Countryman (China) by Xuefei Chi
Szpaku & Kubi Producent – Ćmy (Poland) by Krzysztof Kiziewicz, Radovan Lee
Gogol (France) by David Cabannes
puntjudith – Lichter (Netherlands) by Thijs Mosterman
Ophelia (Germany) by Meike Redeker
Seer & Seen (Iran) by Ghazal Majidi
Uh Huh (U.S.) by Mark Isaac, Gabriela Bulisova
How (U.S.) by Vasilios Papaioannu
Makarìa (Italy) by Giulia Attanasio
Physical Thoughts (U.S.) by Anne Hollowday
The Orphan's Gift (Israel) by Dan Robert Lahiani
(M)Orpheus (Spain) by Paul Levit
FAHMI ALQHAI X CARMEN MUÑOZ - BWV 1013 (Spain) by Adrian Cores
A Year in Exile (Turkey) by Malaz Usta
Following...? (Belgium) by Bruno Cerpa Moreno
Wuqiao Circus (Austria) by Lukas Berger
Memories (Sweden) by Kristin Johannessen
The Devil Had Other Plans (Act I) (U.K.) by Guli Silberstein
Top Girl (Belgium) by Jana Van Brussel
A Rock (Hong Kong) by Shing Lee
Time (Norway) by Line Klungseth Johansen
Emily, ilaw ng tahanan (Qatar) by Anna Prokou
Ghost and Me (U.S.) by Francesca Pazniokas
The long wail of a passing train slips into the heart of the ghosts and everything explodes into silence. (Canada) by Anne-Marie Bouchard
Vivant (Argentina) by Carlos Nahuel Cerutti
Forever (U.S.) by Mitch McGlocklin
Locomotive Organisms (U.S.) by Chris Aaron
Phélia (Netherlands) by Elia Kalogianni
Face Me (Spain) by Cándida Massielle Asencio
Homage to Airway (Denmark) by Sophia Ioannou Gjerding
Euphrat (Germany) by Jelena Ilic
Lust des Schöpfers (Spain) by Carles Pons Altimira
SPORA (Belgium) by Loes Vanneste, Lena Mariën
The Moth (U.K.) by Geordie Leyland
A letter from Al Barzakh (Belgium) by Waleed Al Madani
Tunable Mimoid (Australia) by Vladimir Todorovic
The Execution (Japan) by Jeroen Van der Stock
Trailer Traders (U.S.) by Karmen Kreti