The Hermit of Treig | Lizzie MacKenzie (2020 Runner-up)
All That Remains | Amanda Mustard (2019 Winner)
AZ House | Anna Oliker (2019 Runner-up)
Mirror Mirror on the Wall | Sascha Schöeberl (2018 Winner)
Disappearing Village | Megumi Inman (2018 Second Award)
Hope Frozen | Pailin Wedel (2017 Winner)
Silent Men | Duncan Cowles (2017 Second Award)
We Were Kings | Alex Bescoby & Max Jones (2016 Winner)
Americaville | Adam Smith (2016 Second Award)
We Were Kings | Alex Bescoby & Max Jones (2016 Winner)
Alex Bescoby and Max Jones were the first ever recipient of our £80,000 Funding Award for their project We Were Kings. Focusing on the forgotten monarchy of Myanmar, this documentary follows a family who have spent a century living incognito in their own homeland. After King Thibaw’s death, the country was plunged into decades of civil war and in order to stay out of prison (or at least alive) the royals were forced to hide their identities. Now after an extraordinary year of change, King Thibaw’s great-grandson will attempt to reunite his kin and bring the king’s body back to its righteous homeland.
The world premiere of We Were Kings took place at the British Library in partnership with Open City Documentary Festival in September 2017, and the Myanmar premiere was held in Mandalay in November 2017. The film has been broadcast on television channels across the world. Visit Grammar Productions for more information.
The 2017 Funding Award prize was awarded to Thai-American filmmaker Pailin Wedel for her documentary, Hope Frozen. What happens when a Buddhist scientist from Bangkok decides to freeze his daughter’s brain? When laser scientist Sahatorn’s baby daughter tragically dies of cancer, he invests in a dream of the future that one day she will be awoken and given another chance of life. A tale of grief and scientific progress, this is the story of how a 2 year old girl became the youngest human ever to be cryopreserved. You can watch the trailer here.
Mirror Mirror on the Wall | Sascha Schöberl (2018 Winner)
A Chinese plastic surgeon and self-proclaimed artist seizes the spotlight for never-seen-before performances. This is a modern tale about vanity and self- glorification as well as an extreme investigation into humanity set against the backdrop of China today.
Director: Sascha Schöberl is a German director and DP based in Beijing. He holds a degree in film making arts from the London Middlesex University. As DP he has worked for a wide variety of feature length documentaries. As a director, Mirror Mirror on the Wall is his feature length debut.
Judge Harriet Armston-Clarke said: “Mirror Mirror on the Wall really gets ‘under the skin’ of our beauty-obsessed world, putting selfie-culture on the operating table and calling into question the impact this is having on us all – both as individuals and society.“
Director: Sascha Schöberl Production Companies: DOCDAYS Productions GmbH (Germany), CNEX Foundation Limited (China)
Adam Smith’s first feature documentary, Americaville, tells the story of a community in China. A large group of residents of Beijing who have escaped an increasingly uninhabitable city to live out their American Dreams in the Chinese replica of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Silent Men is the first documentary by Scottish filmmaker Duncan Cowles. A frank and at times humorous look at masculinity and its role in society, the film will investigate the cultural norms and social conditioning that render suicide the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and that make men three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent. Silent Men is a road-trip around the UK with Duncan Cowles, who hopes to find answers to his increasing fear of being intimate with those closest to him.
In a Jerusalem suburb, fifteen young American drug addicts, abandoned by their ultra Orthodox Jewish families, share both pain and great hope that Eric, another recovering addict, will save them from certain death. AZ House allows a rare glimpse into the lives of these young addicts during the most trying time of their lives, as they deal not only with recovery but with exile from the insular ultra Orthodox Jewish community in which they were raised.
Director: Anna Oliker is a filmmaker from Jerusalem, Israel. AZ House is her first film.
Judge Mandy Chang said: “What makes this film fascinating is the way that it takes an urgent global issue – the opioid epidemic – and views it through the lens of an often closed culture, the Orthodox Jewish community. The film, set in a volatile environment in Jerusalem and following a group of complex and troubled young men characters, has all the ingredients for an emotional and compelling film, full of twists and turns.”
Director: Anna Oliker Production Company: Heymann Brothers Films
Amanda, a photojournalist, returns home to turn her investigative lens on the serial sexual abuse committed by her grandfather. Through the accounts of both perpetrator and his victims, she pursues a high-stakes journey to examine the systemic injustices and culture of silence in pursuit of truth and healing for her family.
Director: Amanda Mustard is an award-winning American photographer and journalist based in Bangkok, Thailand.
Judge Patrick Hurley said: “Amanda’s film deals with one of the most harrowing and perplexing of subjects from such a proximate position to a perpetrator, her grandfather. We found her director’s statement to be highly genuine and sincere.”
As South Sudan hangs in the balance of a tenuous peace agreement, Akuol’s mother, Nyandeng prepares to become one of the country’s five vice-presidents. Her mission is to safeguard her late husband, John Garang’s vision for South Sudan’s people, their country, and their family.
Director: Akuol de Mabior is a South Sudanese filmmaker who aims to create stories for the screen that facilitate African imaginations and encourage us to think differently about ourselves and our futures.
Judge Gary Kam said: “A daughter portrays her mother’s fight, as one of the vice presidents of South Sudan, to build the foundation of peace and prosperity in the post-civil war nation. With unprecedented access to the protagonist, Nyandeng provides an intimate insight into a politician’s love, hope and fear as a mother and politician who tries to complete the political legacy of her late husband.”
When Akuol heard she was a finalist she responded: “I’m laughing, crying, grateful, humbled, energised and can’t stop smiling.”
What causes a person to consider stepping away from society, to lead a life of isolation, far from the modern world? This is a tender and intimate film about an elderly hermit in the Highlands of Scotland who opens his life to director Lizzie MacKenzie, whilst he comes to terms with his increasingly frail body and questions whether he will be able to live out his last years in the wilderness he calls home.
Director: Lizzie MacKenzie is a self-shooting director who focuses on characters at the edge of society, who remind us of our place within the natural world.
Judge Oli Harbottle said: “At a time when we are all experiencing living in self-isolation, this is an irresistible look at someone who has chosen that very lifestyle for the past thirty years out of choice rather than necessity. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Scottish Highlands, the fact the director has spent seven years to win the trust of the film’s subject allows for what promises to be a truly tender and intimate portrait of someone living far away from the hectic nature of modern life.”
When Lizzie heard she was a finalist she responded: “Can’t wait to tell Ken… I’ll have to send a pigeon!”
After a young girl from the mountains of central Afghanistan mysteriously commits suicide inside Kabul University, her family’s calm rural life enters into a painful and exhausting process. Her parents are now looking for justice in one of the most corrupt judicial systems in the world; while Freshta, their younger daughter, attempts to gain admission to the same university to complete what her sister had started.
Three years ago, Ilyas Yourish and Shahrokh Bikaran, decided to tell the story of Kamay; their own story. Born and raised in Afghanistan and having traveled the country extensively, both of them felt uniquely positioned to observe their homeland through their lenses. Shahrokh has graduated in 2016 from The Tehran Film School, where he studied directing, score composition, and Audio Engineering. He has since been involved in the creation of more than ten documentaries. Ilyas has graduated in 2014 from the Faculty of Journalism at Kabul University. Since 2011, he has worked as a journalist, researcher, and filmmaker. Ilyas and Shahrokh have recently established their Afghanistan-based Film Production Company.
Mandy Chang, Commissioning Editor of BBC Storyville and a member of the judging panel, said about Kamay: “The judges were struck by an incredibly cinematic story that shows a different side of a country we haven’t seen before. It’s about the quest for justice and the role of women in a society trying to free itself from the past and find hope for the future.”
In the midst of shocking family revelations, a young filmmaker is diagnosed with terminal cancer. What follows is an intimate and darkly humorous journey of a family’s attempt to make sense of their upended past and disrupted future.
Kit Vincent is a director/producer with an interest in character driven stories, that use humour to explore nuanced, real life drama. Kit began his career working on flagship documentary series’ for Channel 4 and other UK broadcasters and attended the Sundance Talent Forum as part of the Documentary Film Programme in 2019. Red Herring is his debut feature.
Gary Kam, Oscar-Winning Producer and a member of our judging panel said: “The director is on his way with a camera. The destination he is taking us to is not an unavoidable place but a way of appreciating the excursion on earth. With courage, openness and sometimes humour, the director’s cinematic journey takes us to a secret destination; The meaning of life, family and love. With the support from The Whickers, the jury hopes that this project will become a trail to follow in an inevitable story that we have to become the protagonists.”