The 2020 edition Brussels Independent Film Festival closed Saturday evening after a week full of films from all over the globe with the presentation of the 'Atomium Film Awards'. The filmmakers were crowned with edible chocolate awards made by Belgian chocolatier Wim Vyverman.
The prize for the Best Narrative Feature Film went to 'The Names Of The Flowers' (Bolivia) by Bahman Tavoosi. As Bolivia stages the 50th anniversary of Ernesto "Che" Guevara’s death, Julia, an old countryside teacher, is invited to share her historical story with the world: giving a bowl of soup to the captured guerrilla in her classroom, while he recited a poem about flowers to her, a few hours before his death. The invitation is withdrawn soon after, as other women step forward, claiming the story of “the soup and the flower” as their own. The jury members praised the film's “remarkable color design and framing”, as well as its “breathtaking performances”.
'Hollow Heart' (Denmark) by Emilie Marloth Frøkjær received the award for Best Narrative Short Film. Ellen has achieved great success on the art scene with her installation piece "Hollow Heart", where she scans and projects her sick daughter's heart in front of a live audience. As the press begins to doubt Ellen's talent, she chooses to restage the piece bigger and wilder. But as her daughter Adalyn enters puberty and is more fragile than ever, Ellen must choose between chasing fame or assuring Adalyn's health. The jury found the film an “astounding piece of cinema which deeply resonates”.
Best Documentary Feature Film went to 'House Calls' (Germany) by Anne Münch. A portrait about an 80-year-old philosopher who goes from door to door to prepare people for the great occasion of Immanuel Kant’s 300th birthday. In search of closeness, he wants to get to the bottom of the pressing issues of our time. “The goal of getting philosophy demystified and bringing it to the people was very well achieved”, reported one jury member. 'PACIFIC' (Lebanon) by Angie Obeid was awarded with Best Documentary Short Film. This observational documentary follows a group of inhabitants of a Brussels high-rise building named 'PACIFIC', in the aftermath of the suicide of one of its tenants.
'ON' (Australia) by Jelena Sinik won the prize for Best Animated Film. In our age of attention scarcity, ‘ON’ explores just where our gaze is falling. Take a curious and playful glimpse into both the connectedness and enduring loneliness of the modern condition, through this intimate and unexamined lens.
The award for Best Experimental Film was for 'Shelly' (United States) by Katie Vida. 'Shelly' is a video work developed entirely on Snapchat, the app known for its face altering features. The piece includes filtered selfie video diaries by Kentucky native Shelly, who has exhausted her savings on an Airbnb rental to explore New York. Her meanderings are meaningful for their short-lived revelations. 'Shelly' sheds light on smartphone technology as a form of embodiment, elucidation, connection, and at times, detachment. Best Music Video went to 'Worthless' (Germany) by Robert Piel for the band Sabbath Assembly. The video tells the coming-of-age tale of a young man as he claims his territory and his sexuality in the face of an adversarial peer group and family. Set in a provincial rural setting, the protagonist finds his identity in skateboarding, brawls, and self-harm, ultimately individuating in an act of extreme savagery. Our jury members praised the “original camera work” in particular.
And last but not least, Best Belgian Film was awarded to 'Int.Anouchka-Night' (Belgium) by Louise Hansenne. Anouchka is a 30-year-old scriptwriter who works in a wine bar to earn a living. She retraces her last 15 years of alcoholism through a script she wrote. “Anouchka is imperturbable and very solid but she opens up and becomes very fragile”, the jury thought. “An excellent film about alcoholism that brought up as many questions as it answered.”
Out of more than 3,000 entries, 100 films from all over the globe were selected to be screened at different locations in the heart of Brussels. The festival's newest section, 'The Rabbit Holes' also proved to be a hit. The vaulted rooms of the underground exhibition hall at Cinema Galeries served as the setting for the continuous screenings of a careful selection of experimental films.
"We do not have a red carpet, we do not organize fancy parties. We just want to show films", says organizer Kris De Meester. "We are especially happy this year with the large turnout – we had people sitting on the stairs at times – for a selection of what are arguably sometimes challenging films.”
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.
The 2020 edition was yet another successful one, with a record number of attendees and the continued support of the Atomium, Cinema Galeries and Cinema Ritcs.