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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.

 

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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.

 

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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/United States) 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 (United States) by Joshua Edelman

Round About (Germany) by Andreas Uranowicz

Wound Riders (United States) by Angel Barroeta

In Ashes (Norway) by Kjetil Engh Aasen

ASMR for White Liberals (United States) by John Connor Hammond

Lewiston (United States) 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 (United Kingdom) 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 (United States) 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 (United States) 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 (United Kingdom) by Esmé Creed-Miles

Your Beautiful Rubber Brain (Netherlands) by Jelmer Wristers

Evie (United Kingdom) by Olive Pascha

The Wedding Cake (Sweden) by Monica Mazzitelli

Blank Canvas (United States) by Alisa Traskunov

Tender age (France) by Julien Gaspar-Oliveri

Among the Almond Trees (Belgium) by Marie Le floc'h

Born To Be (United States) 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 (United States) 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 (United States) 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 (United States) by Stephanie M Barber

The Real Person (Estonia) by Jaan Tätte

OMEGA II (France) by Blanchard Thomas

lophiile feat. NSTASIA | My Side (United States) 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 (United Kingdom) 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 (United States) by Mark Isaac, Gabriela Bulisova

How (United States) by Vasilios Papaioannu

Makarìa (Italy) by Giulia Attanasio

Physical Thoughts (United States) 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) (United Kingdom) 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 (United States) 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 (United States) by Mitch McGlocklin

Locomotive Organisms (United States) 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 (United kingdom) 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 (United States) by Karmen Kreti