The prestigious annual award of £80,000 goes to the director duo Ilyas Yourish and Shahrokh Bikaran from Afghanistan. Their winning film proposal is Kamay, a brave and intimate journey behind the headlines of war-torn Kabul, into the hitherto unseen world of the persecuted Hazara community. Beautiful visuals gently lead us through one family’s tense search for justice.
The Whickers’ Artistic Director, Jane Ray said: “I’ve learned that Kamay is the Hazara name for an invaluable herb that manages to grow despite in treacherously inhospitable conditions. In this film it becomes analogous to the life-threatening complexities of Afghan society. Ilyas and Shahrokh align a profound narrative with an outstanding artistic and creative approach to storytelling and we are honoured to name them our 2021 winners.”
The project was selected from five finalists at this year’s edition of Sheffield Doc/Fest following a virtual pitch on Tuesday 8th June in front of a panel of industry judges. The announcement was made at The Whicker Awards Ceremony at Doc/Fest last night, Thursday 10th June. The ceremony, hosted by The Whickers’ Artistic Director, Jane Ray, was watched live by an audience joining simultaneously from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. The announcement came after speeches by Alan Whicker’s partner and founding chair of the Awards Committee, Valerie Kleeman, last year’s Whicker winner Akuol de Mabior and Sheffield Doc/Fest’s festival director Cíntia Gil.
Mandy Chang, Commissioning Editor of BBC Storyville and a member of the judging panel, said: “I thought all of these projects were fantastic and I can see all of them being made as films. I want to encourage the filmmakers to really go forward with confidence because you all did brilliantly in your pitches and it was a really hard decision to make. But ultimately we have to choose a winner and 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 response to hearing the results, the director duo behind Kamay, Ilyas and Shahrokh shared these words: “We have such a mixed feeling. We are happy, we are thrilled, but at the same time the events happening in our home country Afghanistan, the escalating of violence and the mass killing of our people, the Hazara people, these wounds are tough to forget and this trauma tracks us wherever we go. It is difficult to say that we are purely happy right now, indeed we are happy but at the same time, once we have told this story, and once we have told many other stories from Afghanistan, from our country, that’s when we think that this weight of responsibility will lessen a bit and we will have time to breathe. Of course, when all these brutal wars come to an end and Afghanistan, especially Hazara people, can live freely and without the fear of being killed, that’s where the real moment of happiness comes. At the same time we want to thank you everyone for this great opportunity and we can’t wait to hit the road and do what we’re supposed to do. So thank you for the trust and thank you for the award.”
Photos from left to right: Kamay (protagonist), Director Ilyas Yourish, Director Shahrokh Bikaran
4 years ago, Kit was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer and turned to his camera as a mechanism to cope with and explore the dynamics within his family. Pain and denial are part of the process. The Whickers’ Producer, Emily Copley observed that “the film moves between a rare and raw honesty and hilarity as Kit’s family try out a multitude of diversionary tactics to put off facing the inevitable. Meanwhile, Kit is crafting a timeless and powerful document of love and loss, so long as Maggie his dog doesn’t get to chew through all of his rushes first”.
Gary Kam, Oscar-Winning Producer and a member of our judging panel also 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.”
The jury were struck by Kit’s vulnerability and astuteness as a first-time filmmaker. During the process, he shared these words with us: “I’ve always imagined this film as a family photograph which has been ripped into pieces and scattered across the ground. The process of making it is like trying to piece each of these fragments back together, creating something that resembles the original in some way, but which is more beautiful, more powerful and has more life. I hadn’t realised the importance of examining these shards of memory before; I felt there was no need. Now, I’ve come to realise the immense power contained in these small moments and small stories. Without introducing a camera into the most intimate moments of the past years, I would never have unlocked what I have, and we would never be in the position we are now. It’s such an honour to be part of The Whickers… to have a vote of confidence in my story and in my family’s story is something that means a lot to me, so I want to say thank you so much.”
Photos from left to right: Red Herring (Kit and his dad Lawrence), Red Herring (Lawrence), Director Kit Vincent
Sheffield Doc/Fest’s Director, Cíntia Gil said during the Awards Ceremony that The Whickers “are supporting filmmakers in a really meaningful way and… sending a message to other filmmakers who will want to make their own films that it is possible and they can find friends who can help them. That is really what Sheffield Doc/Fest wants to stand for and therefore I am really proud that for one more year we are here in ‘Sheffield’ – online and in the city really celebrating these filmmakers. I want to thank Alan Whicker, of course, Valerie, you Jane Ray, Jane Mote. I want to also thank the jury whose work is hard and I know they put so much care into this work. I want to thank the filmmakers and all the teams of these projects because they are all great. I’m so proud of the quality of the films we see here starting to be born and I want to thank the Whickers team and Sheffield Doc/Fest team for the incredible work and love that they have put in.”
When asked what difference the award has made to last year’s winner, Akuol de Mabior, she told us: “On a practical level it’s allowed us to have more shoot days and get over some inevitable bumps in the road, but also having you all and your warm and discerning feedback has also been amazing. The Whickers care so much about first time feature directors and you can feel it. A word of advice to this year’s finalists? Keep your heart open so that you can keep being surprised by the world, your subjects and yourself.”
Photos from left to right: Bubbles at the ready, Host & Artistic Director of The Whickers Jane Ray, The Whickers 2021 Family
The Whickers Pitch and Awards Ceremony are now available to watch on catch-up for anyone with a Sheffield Doc/Fest industry pass. You can watch the highlights HERE.
You can find out more about our winners and finalists in our 2021 catalogue HERE.
Our next round of submissions open in October 2021.