Astra Film Festival 2023 awards

"Where Nobody Says 'I Love You'" (Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento), "The Sweet Kiss of the Earth" (Gautier Gumpper), "Amar" (Diana Gavra), "The Wind of Change" (Nikoloz Bezhanishivili), "I Dance at My Parents' Wedding" (Andreea Chiper), among the award-winning films of the anniversary edition

The best films of the 30th anniversary edition of the Astra Film Festival were announced on Saturday night in Sibiu, in a Thalia hall full of people and emotion, as is the case every time a competition chooses its winners. Among the 2023 laureates were the Romanian Diana Gavra, with the film "Amar," and Andreea Chiper ("Dance at My Parents' Wedding"). One of the most significant awards was obtained by Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento ("Adieu Sauvage“). The ceremony was organized on October 21, exactly the day when the longest-running film festival in Romania set out on its journey 30 years ago. In the end, the founding director of the Astra Film Festival received the title of honorary citizen of Sibiu "for his entire artistic activity and for promoting Sibiu's cultural values." A selection of 43 festival films can be viewed online in Romania until October 30. Details and tickets:
"I thank you and am grateful that you are with us at this anniversary moment. We had the opportunity to travel together through the world and different worlds with the help of documentary film. We have encountered many stories and human experiences. Documentary film helps us better understand the world we live in and find our place in this world. It also helps us build a better, more open society with more humanity. My thoughts now are to thank the Astra Film team, whom I wish were here on stage, who worked for a year, my family, who supported me for so long and was involved in all aspects of organizing, the institutions that supported us, especially the Ministry of Culture, without whose help the festival would not have existed this year," said Dumitru Budrala, the founding director of the Astra Film Festival.
ROMANIA COMPETITION, which featured 11 films, was judged by Ana Aleksovska, Ana Vlad, and Marc Isaacs and had two winners. The best documentary film in the Romania Competition, awarded by HBO, was considered to be "Earth's Sweet Kiss" (France, 2023), by Gautier Gumpper. The jury's motivation: "This film presents a very subtle metaphor to us about the beauty of life born out of struggle and the desire to preserve the integrity of the individual.
Embracing formal limitations, this is a film that skilfully and slowly unfolds a narrative situated on the edges of society. With dignity and a poetic transformative power, this finely tuned work deploys all of the most cinematic tools to create intimacy with the voiceless."
The Best Debut Award went to the documentary "Amar" (Romania, 2023), by Diana Gavra. Jury motivation: "With courage and determination this debutant filmmaker builds a relationship of trust and intimacy with her protagonists in order to bring us close to a group of people for whom theft is -as they describe- a way of life”. Without judgement or sensationalism -and allowing people the space to frankly express their complicated lives - this film skilfully reveals the people behind the stereotypes."
NEW VOICES IN DOCUMENTARY CINEMA COMPETITION's jury, composed of Richard Alwyn, Liviu Lucaci, and Baljit Sangra, had to choose among 10 selected films and unanimously voted that „Adieu Sauvage" (Belgium, France, 2023), by Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento, is the best film. Jury motivation: "This was a cinematic, touching film with many layers; the filmmakers personal journey of enquiry into his own identity opens up into a story about the legacies of colonialism. This movement between the personal and the historical is handled with intimacy and charm and humour. At the heart of the film is a developing friendship between the filmmaker and his guide; this trusting, mutual friendship is a testimony to the filmmakers uncomplicated, mission – a mission to learn about othersin order to better understand himself. The film is a journey, a journey undertaken with humility and clarity – beautifully filmed and beautifully told – and like all good journeys it involves transformation, and the jury appreciated the chance to have shared the filmmakers discoveries about a disappearing culture that is at the heart of his own DNA.
Ten films made it to the final selection of the CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE Competition, judged by Edward Lawrenson, Marco Bertozzi, and Surabhi Sharma. The best documentary was the film "The Northeast Winds" (Georgia, 2022), by Nikoloz Bezhanishivili. Jury motivation: "In Nikoloz Bezhanishivilis The Northeast Winds is an absorbing, assured and intimate study of a party of elderly Communists, committed to the memory of Stalin in the town where he was born. Treading a fine line in its portrait of men and women whom the winds of history have passed by, this film is at once unblinking and tender, depicting its characters with steely empathy, as neither heroes, villains or victims. What emerges through patient observation and artful editing is a poignant film about belonging, loneliness and collective identity."
The jury also awarded a Special Mention to the film "Love Is Not an Orange" (Belgium, France, Netherlands, Moldova, 2022), by Otilia Babara. Jury motivation: "Through twenty years of video letters we follow the fate of a country that gains independence but loses its mothers. Thousands of Moldovan women have left their country to seek their fortune abroad: an epochal theme and an unacknowledged story, which the found footage film illustrates with acuteness and sensitivity, alternating images and greetings of those who left, with images and greetings of those who remained. Especially the children, protagonists of a thousand virtual hugs, caught in their tender looks and full of sadness. Sometimes we see sincere greetings, other times playful and theatrical greetings, constructed by adults, in the difficult attempt to stem an abysmal distance from the bodies of distant mothers."

The DOCSCHOOL Competition, which featured 19 films in its selection, was judged by Ognjen Glavonić, Apostolos Karakasis, and Alexandra Colta, and offered three awards.

The best documentary of the Student Competition, awarded by the Romanian Cultural Institute, was considered to be the production "Dancing at My Parents' Wedding" (Romania, 2023), by Andreea Chiper. The jury's motivation: "The filmmaker's playful investigation of archival material invites us to rethink family histories, crumbling relationships and the meaning of life as it's shaped by defining moments and people. We would also like to commend the filmmaker for making a first film that demonstrates originality, ambition and attention to detail in the way she uses images from the past to tell stories about the present. We are delighted to give the Best Film award to a film that really captivated our imagination through the inventive use of personal footage in a journey towards self-discovery."
Alina Maksimenko received the Best Direction award, offered by Cinelab, for her debut film "Ptitsa" (Poland, 2022). Jury motivation: "The film captures the profound bond between her and her mother within the walls of their home. Set during quarantine, this double portrait evolves into a powerful contemplation on mortality and delves into the intricate emotions that surface when faced with inevitable endings: of life, of friendship, of life together."
The film "Letters to Orsk" (Germany, 2023), directed by Andreas Boschmann, received a Special Mention for "a courageous story in which the director embarks on a journey to explore his familys repressed trauma.  intergenerational traumas within his own family. This utterly personal film reflects the collective and timeless sagas of migration and peoples struggle to accept the unacceptable blows of destiny and carry on living their fragile lives with hope and compassion," the jury's motivation states.
The 30th-anniversary edition of the Astra Film Festival took place in Sibiu from October 15 to October 22 and featured over 130 films, mostly in premiere, and 250 cinematic events, attended by an audience of tens of thousands of all ages.
For documentary cinema lovers in Romania who couldn't make it to Sibiu and for those who couldn't see all the film screenings at AFF2023, the organizers offer the opportunity to watch a selection of 43 films online in Romania from October 22 (00:01) to October 30 (23:59). The price of a single film ticket is 20 lei. The price of a subscription for all AFF Online films is 200 lei. Program and tickets:
About the Astra Film Festival
Astra Film Festival Sibiu, launched in 1993 as an innovative project, is one of the most important non-fiction film festivals in Europe. Under the High Patronage of the President of Romania, the festival is organized by Astra Film, CNM Astra and the Astra Film Foundation, with the Ministry of Culture as a strategic partner, with the support of the Sibiu County Council, the National Center of Cinematography, the Romanian Cultural Institute, the Consulate of the Federal Republic Germany in Sibiu and the Union of Cinematographers. The event is co-financed by the Sibiu City Council through the Sibiu City Hall.
Strategic partner: Ministry of Culture
Sponsors: HBO Go, Martini, Cinelab, Materom Autohaus, Luthelo, CineGOLD, Promenada Mall, DPD Romania, Kulinarium, Sonne
Monitoring partner: MediaTrust
Media partners: Europa FM, TV5 Monde, Radio Romania Cultural,, G4media, Hotnews, Spotmedia, PressHub, Turnul Sfatului, Sibiu 100%, Tribuna, Messagerul de Sibiu, Ora de Sibiu, independent Sibiu, Sibiul azi, Hermannstädter Zeitung , Nine O'Clock, Scena9, Cinemagia, Cineuropa, Film New Europe, Observator cultural, Timpul, AaRC, MovieNews, Cinefan, Cinefilia, Liternet, Capital Cultural, Revista Transilvania, Filmtett, Modern Times Review
Communication partner: PiArt Vision

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