9th DMZ International Documentary Film Festival – Winners 2017

We present the list of winners for the 9th DMZ International Documentary Film Festival 2017 that took place from September 21st – 28th, in Gyeonggi Province, Paju and Goyang.

International Competition
Grand Prix | White Goose Award

Communion by Anna Zamecka – Poland | 2016 – 72 min.

When adults are ineffectual, children have to grow up quickly. Ola is 14 and she takes care of her dysfunctional father, autistic brother and a mother who lives apart from them and is mainly heard the phone. Most of all she wants to reunite a family that simply doesn’t work like a defective TV set. She lives in the hope of bringing her mother back home. Her 13 year old brother Nikodem’s Holy Communion is a pretext for the family to meet up.

What the jury said:
Some characters of documentary films make an impression on us as strong as they do in fiction films: the meeting with them enriches our view on others and on ourselves. The value of this meeting relates to the correctness of the view on them, when the film could avoid the pitfalls of cold observation and voyeurism. It is even more true and difficult when it comes to looking in the daily life and intimacy of a family whose difficulties are concentrated in a small space and in the difficult coexistence with what is called cautiously ‘the difference’. Filming it obviously implies building a strong relationship of trust, but also being able to maintain a very fragile balance between individual portraits and social environment, between benevolence and lucidity, between gravity and humor. For having accomplished it without notes, and for having combined the remarkable technical and dramatic qualities with the very sensitive approach to all the characters, the jury decided to award the Grand Prix of the international competition to the film of Anna Zamecka.



Special Jury Award

The War Show by Andreas Dalsgaard, Obaidah Zytoon – Denmark, Finland | 2016 – 100 min.

In March 2011, radio host Obaidah Zytoon and friends join the street protests against the oppressive regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Knowing the Arab Spring will forever change their country, this group of artists and activists begin filming their lives and the events around them. But as the regime’s violent response spirals the country into a bloody civil war, their hopes for a better future are tested by violence, imprisonment and death.

What the jury said:
The clashes of the civil war in Syria have been on the media screens for so long now that we would almost get used to the current tragedy, forget its history, or be content with stereotyped images. To resituate this tragedy into the individual and collective existences, apart from media images, requires to propose another type of images, another type of discourse, and to arrange them differently. For example, by not being content with the usual images of demonstrations, repression, and war, but linking them to a singular point of view and making them communicate in personal voice with more intimate images of a group of young friends immersed in the freedom. It is no longer a distant war, nor almost an abstract war, but a story experienced by the youth between commitments and disappointments, between the violence of the former and the violence of the latter, between sacrifices and hopes of new tomorrows. For this, the Special Jury Award is awarded to by Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon.


Asian Competition
Asian Perspective Award

Life Imitation by Zhou Chen – China | 2017 – 82 min.

This film parallels the real life with a virtual game. In the game, a female killer wanders the streets of Los Angeles on a dark night. Police sirens wail all around. There are people lying in the streets… possibly dead, possibly asleep. In real life, a woman expresses her suffering and depression over her love life. We also see different episodes of young people’s life in Shanghai, which showed how they give performances to try to fill their social roles in this big city.

What the jury said:
The jury would like to give the award of Best Film to. This work not only explores the limits and boundaries between documentaries and fiction, as well as game play and real life, it also presents an expanding intersection of space shared between theaters and galleries. This documentary mines timely questions spanning issues of gender, social norms, traditional and social media, and forms of alienation and virtual connections that arise that the youth can engage on, in a manner that is well within the modes of communication afforded by the changing technology. This work can inspire viewers, especially the youth, to think about their own place in the world, making us reflect on ways towards peace and reconciliation in society, all in the midst of a proliferation of fake news, consumption, and varying forms of virtual enhancements afforded by our surroundings. This experimental work is a refreshing take that can also inspire other filmmakers to explore not only this subject matter but also find value in the mode of production and ownership of material that they can use to build their own independent thematic work.


Korean Competition
Korean Special Jury Award

Rice Flower by Oh Jung-hun – South Korea | 2017 – 80 min.

The farmer goes to the ground. Water flows. The rice grows. Rice that goes to rice fields grows in the wind, rain, and sunlight. Rice has life. Rice is ripe. It is cut off. It crosses the winter and brings life again. Small rice seeds become ‘rice paddies’, and soil, sunlight, wind and water meet and become rice. As the four seasons of rice farming unfold, the ecological changes of rice and the real problems of the farmers are revealed.

What the jury said:
The winner of the Korean Special Jury Award goes to the film that illuminates the poetic beauty embedded in everyday life- Oh Jung-hun’s ! This film focuses on ‘rice’ and takes the audience on a journey through the cycle of this life-sustaining staple- from planting, nurturing and blooming to harvesting. It reminds us of a fundamental truth, which often forgotten, that human beings and nature are intimately, inextricably connected. The jury commend the film for its cinematic poetry, and the directors ability to expertly weave together the rhythm of nature and the toil of man, resulting in a moving, artful ode that honours the humble grain and the sacrifices made to bring it to our table.


Best Korean Documentary Award

Forgetting and remembering 2: Reflection by 4.16 Act Media Committee
South Korea | 2017 – 175 min.

April 16, 2014. A cruise ship with 476 passengers left for Jeju Island. And 304 passengers were never able to come back. Everyone watched the scene of 304 universes disappearing through live broadcasting. In the face of this painful disaster, some struggled to remember and some tried their best to erase the whole thing. This film records the collective trauma of Korean society after the disaster and asks why the 304 victims can’ t peacefully rest in the eternal sleep. [Via: Diaspora Film Festival 2017]

What the jury said:
The winner of the Best Korean Documentary Award goes to 4.16 Act Media Committee’s ! The film shows the on-going Sewol Ferry disaster, still not solved, from remembering and mourning perspectives. The documentary talks about how Korean society must remember and mourn the still on-going Sewol ferry disaster which has not been given proper investigations for the least truth. The effort to bring unsolved cases into the current memories has been a critical role of documentary in Korean society. I show respect to the directors who posed themselves for this important role. Especially, the judges want to mention about the late Park Joing-pil’s presenting a civilian diver, the late Kim Kwan-hong and Ahn Chang-gyu’s about the last escapee Kim Sung-mook. These two works made us think about how our society must solve the problem of Korea traumatized by the Sewol Ferry disaster. By showing individuals experiencing the moments of the disaster, those films keep showing the exact cause and nature of the tragedy and because of that, the film says that this trauma is not upon each individual but the society which is the only key to ease this trauma. The direction is outstanding as it expands its theme into social field while focusing on traumatized individuals. Focusing on individual trauma is outstanding as it expands its thematic.



Youth Competition
Excellence Award

Friends by Kim Min-seo, Kim Nam-ju, Lee Sung-jae – South Korea | 2017 – 12 min.

Sora is the disable with second-tier of hearing loss and she joined a performance team in Haja production school. With a question of “How has she conducted the performance with her disability for the last 3 years?”, we began recording her life with her friends at school. One day, the hearing aid device in her ears failed and Sora suddenly can’t hear anything at all.

What the jury said:
The work presents the horror of the Vietnam war without causing discomfort while it overcomes its own limitation. The film seriously considers how to deal with a lot of pain other than war itself. It is true that we felt the lack of the director’s honesty since it was filmed in the school, but we’d like to highly think of its developing process, the problems of the times moving into individual’s inner side. The director’s psychology is flexibly entangled with the film and that shows definite direction of the work which leads the audience easily, but carefully, to the film.


Best Youth Documentary Award

The First Step by Heo Na-gyeong – South Korea | 2016 – 10 min.

Heo Na-gyeong who goes to Road Schola, an alternative education school for traveling, learns about the Vietnamese war. However, she cannot bear the cruelty of civilian massacre during the war. She wonders why we have to see and listen images and testimonials of such cruel scenes of carnage. The first step is a short documentary film about her asking questions and finding answers on her own.

What the jury said:
The film says, ‘make difference different’, and beautifully and harmoniously renders people who accept difference of each other. And the way of presentation, matching its auditory theme, contributes to attract the audience and make them focus. The film contains the director’s honesty and sincerity which overcome the banality of the theme. We can highly think of it’s power to make audience concentrate on the film without doubt.


Special Awards
Brave New Docs Award

To kill Alice by Kim Sang-kyu – South Korea | 2017 – 76 min.

Eunmi, a woman who underwent intense anticommunist education up as she grew up in South Korea, lives a normal life in America. However, after going on a trip to North Korea with her husband, her life begins to change. During a open forum event in South Korea taht she was invited to speak at, she suffers the unimaginable and the more she tries to escape from the situation, the worse and worse ot gets.

What the jury said:
The work of putting right value into practice in the documentary must be overcoming fear and revealing it and suspecting it. I’d like to give a big hand to all the works nominated for the special awards including. Brave New Docs Award means a lot when it comes to dealing with difficult subject matters, not easily explained with color theory or ideological argument. The reason we chose this work although it is like in which a man changed to a woman is that we thought no one’s mouth shouldn’t be covered by the word ‘commie.’ We need new morality embracing North Korea, not judging it as strange country. Making the world where everyone freely speaks up is equal to making a documentary.

Beautiful New Docs Award

Counters by Lee-Il-ha – South Korea | 2017 – 96 min.

Since 2013, Japan’s extreme-right racist group has organized more than 1000 hate speeches around the nation. A schoolteacher, a deliveryman, a politician, an architect, and other ordinary citizens form a coalition to ‘counter’ the racist group, calling for the awakening of Japanese conscience. Spearheading the civic group, our problematic protagonist Takahashi, a former mid-level Yakuza boss is reborn, determined to fight against racism and discrimination.

What the jury said:
Beautifully presents a heavy story, very sensitive and interesting political subject, which might be misleading at the slightest slip, with presenting both parties’ stories, trying not to bore the audience. The camera adheres to characters and shows people’s interviews, their struggles and conflicts in order to intelligently represent the conflicts between Korea and Japan. The way the director develops the story proves himself how energetically he can deliver his message without any special tricks. The documentary on the screen has its virtue practicing journalism and at the same time, very fun like a TV show.


Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award

The Work by Park Soo-hyun – South Korea | 2016 – 22 min.

A night at Sangdo-4-dong still preserved until now, with the voice of a man portraying his work tearing down the buildings which lasted until the moment of forsythias blooming, 2011.

What the jury said:
Park Soo-hyun’s is covering the site of Sanggye 4-dong demolition, in 2011, in ‘his’ point of view who was temporarily hired for the demolition at that time.
Urban redevelopment is condensed idea with desire for organized and cultivated city appearance, desire to possess the land, and increasing property. But the film shows two different classes, not absorbed to these desires, the urban poor who look for another space reflected in bleak eyes of the demolition worker.
‘His’ testimony is connected to excluded people’s desperation and pessimism. Because the capital market is hardly expected to recover its normality and the worker and the urban poor, they project each other like identical twins.
This film looked partially rough and unskilled when I first saw it. However, its warmness or cool-headedness toward the weak is competent enough to present. It shares the meaning of winning the Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award.
The judges send deep affection to this winning film as we hope the director can expand and develop his ‘cool-headed point of view toward the society’ and ‘infinite passion for the object’.


Audience Award

Rice Flower by Oh Jung-hun – South Korea | 2017 – 80 min.

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