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SUNDANCE 2021 Awards

European productions take home the majority of the Sundance 2021 short film awards

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- The UK production Lizard has scooped the Grand Jury Prize, while the French animation Souvenir Souvenir was crowned Best Animation

European productions take home the majority of the Sundance 2021 short film awards
On the left, a still from Lizard, and on the right, director Akinola Davies Jr accepting his award over Zoom

The 2021 edition of the Sundance Film Festival has proven to be a good one for European short films, with almost all of the awards in the festival’s short film section going to European productions and co-productions.

The winner of the Grand Jury Prize was UK film Lizard by Akinola Davies Jr. Backed by BBC Films and production company Potboiler Films, the film is set in Lagos and follows a little girl who – after being thrown out of her Sunday School lesson – wanders around the grounds of a ‘mega church’. There, she witnesses the duplicity at the heart of those who claim religious piety, while a later violent event exposes the schism between the haves and have-nots. With a hint of magical realism, the film is a pointed examination of the various hypocrisies that lay at the heart of the adult word as well as a vibrant exploration of aspects of Nigerian life, all told through a child’s point of view.

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The film itself has been slowly garnering an impressive reputation on the festival circuit, with positive notices from screenings at the likes of the BFI London Film Festival and a current nomination in the London Critics’ Circle Film Awards. Artist and filmmaker Davies Jr, who was raised in Nigeria and is currently based in London, is forging a formidable presence in the industry with a number of noted fashion and music videos behind him and a current spot as one of the 2020 Screen Stars of Tomorrow. Lizard represents one his first forays into more narrative fare.

The Short Film Jury Award for International Fiction was taken home by German-US co-production Bambirak directed by Zamarin Wahdat. The film follows eight-year-old Kati who hides away in her father's truck, which forces the latter to face up to his responsibilities as a single dad alongside dealing with the consequences of being in a new country. But a moment of racism forces both to view the world in a different way. The film is the debut directorial of Wahdat, who was born in Afghanistan and raised in Germany. With well-regarded work as a cinematographer, as well as credits on recent Oscar winning documentary Learning how to Skate in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl), Wahdat’s Sundance win will see her star continue to rise.

Souvenir Souvenir, a French animation from director Bastien Dubois, was the recipient of the award for Best Animation and represents the latest in a hugely successful run for the film which has had more than 50 festival selections so far with screenings at the likes of Black Nights, Clermont-Ferrand, Vila Do Conde and InterFilm Berlin. With elements of documentary, the film follows Dubois as he attempts to coax memories of the Algerian War out of his grandfather. An examination of painful memories, generational conflict and a treatise on the complexity of the creative process, the film is yet another success for Dubois who already has an impressive body of work, including an Oscar nomination for 2009 animation Madagascar, a Journey Diary.

Other prize winners included Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma (Dirs. Topaz Jones & rubberband, USA/Germany/France/Italy), which garnered the award for Best Documentary, and The Criminals (Dir. Serhat Karaaslan, France/Romania/Turkey) which received a Special Jury Prize for Screenwriting.

The short film jury consisted of Raúl Castillo, Tacita Dean and Inge de Leeuw.

Short Film Awards for Sundance 2021

Short Film Grand Jury Prize
Lizard - Akinola Davies Jr (UK)

Short Film Jury Award: US Fiction
The Touch of the Master's Hand - Gregory Barnes (USA)

Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction
Bambirak - Zamarin Wahdat (Germany/USA)

Short Film Jury Award: Nonfiction
Don't Go Tellin' Your Momma - Topaz Jones & rubberband (USA/Germany/France/Italy)

Short Film Jury Award: Animation
Souvenir Souvenir - Bastien Dubois (France)

Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting
Wiggle Room - Sam Guest & Julia Baylis (USA)

Short Film Special Jury Award for Screenwriting
The Criminals - Serhat Karaaslan (France/Romania/Turkey)

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