The Sixth AJB DOC Film Festival Concludes with the Award Ceremony

The Sixth International Documentary Film Festival of Al Jazeera Balkans (AJB DOC) concluded with a grand award ceremony and the screening of Viktor Portel’s film 'The Investigator'at the Bosnian Cultural Center (BKC) in Sarajevo.

The Sixth AJB DOC Film Festival Concludes with the Award Ceremony

The sixth edition of the Al Jazeera Balkans International Documentary Film Festival (AJB DOC) was characterized by packed cinema halls and sold-out screenings, often necessitating additional tickets. In addition to the consistently increasing audience interest year after year, the organizers’ expectations were exceeded, with significant media attention and positive impressions from film professionals and foreign guests who came to AJB DOC from all over the world.

Over the course of the five festival days, 24 documentary films were showcased in four festival selections: Competition Program, AJB Screening, Last Minute Cinema, and Smart Doc, alongside two special screenings. This lineup included six world premieres, one international premiere, 12 regional premieres, and five premiers from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"For us, all the selected and screened films are winners because they left a strong impression and elicited reactions from the audience that embraced the festival. This is evident in the packed cinema halls at all screenings and the BKC, which reached full capacity three times this year, setting a new attendance record compared to  all previous festival editions," said Edhem Fočo, the director of the AJB DOC Film Festival.

"Authors and the audience will remain our primary focus because we do all of this for them. We are thrilled by the fact that, as a festival, we have positioned ourselves as an essential organization in the realm of documentary film, both among our dedicated the audience and within the filmmaking community. I extend my gratitude to everyone who has supported us over the years, and I hope they will continue to do so in the seventh and all future editions we organize," Fočo added.

Awards for the Best Films

The award for the Best Film of the Sixth AJB DOC Film Festival was decided by the distinguished international jury consisting of directors Vitalij Manski, Bernadett Tuza-Ritter, and Nermin Hamzagić, along with producers Vanja Jambrović and Mohamed Elmongy.

The award for the best film, known as the AJB DOC Main Award, was presented to the film “When Spring Came to Bucha” by the author duo Mile Tešajev and Marcus Lenz.

"We are awarding the main prize to a film that, in a very emotional, realistic, delicate, and subtle way, portrays a true human tragedy that we witness in the news every day. The director approached the topic with dignity and deep respect. In every scene of the film, thex managed to strike a balance between revealing the immense number of war victims and testifying that, despite everything, life must go on," the jury explained their decision.

In addition to the main award, the jury also bestowed a Special Recognition Award to the film “'Pure Unknown” directed by Valentina Cicogna and Mattia Colombo. The film tells the story of Cristina Cattaneo, a forensic expert who tirelessly works on identifying “bodies without identity" that arrive at the autopsy room under her supervision.

"This extraordinary documentary delves into a profound human story. The authors of this film, through a powerful cinematic approach, depict the heroic struggle of one individual against the entire system," the jury noted.

The film that received the second Special Recognition Award was “Flotation”, directed by Alesandra Tatić and Eluned Zoe Aiano. The film tells the story of life in Majdanpek, a town in eastern Serbia, whose identity is divided between industry and magic.

"We are presenting this Special Recognition Award to a multi-layered and poetic portrait of a society trapped in socio-economic transition, haunted by demons and torn between two realities: the harsh present and an uncertain future. The authors have successfully emotionally engaged us by contrasting the inner world of the characters with their harsh environment," emphasized the jury.

The Al Jazeera Balkans Program Jury Award, deliberated by Lejla Dedić, Sead Kreševljaković, and Đani Hasečić, was presented to Nick Read and Ayse Toprak for their film “My Name is Happy”. The film tells the incredible story of Mutlu Kayi (Mutlu means “happy” in Turkish), a rising Turkish pop star who narrowly escaped femicide.

"This exceptionally important documentary film sheds light on the pressing issue of femicide and underscores the significance of fighting violence against women. At the same time, the film evokes empathy and compassion, strengthens resilience, and nurtures hope," explained the jury.

The Audience Award will be announced in a few days, once the votes for all the films screened at this year's AJB DOC have been counted.

Rich Supporting Program

After the awards ceremony, Tarik Đođić, the director of Al Jazeera Balkans, addressed the attendees.

"Ahmed Mahfouz, the director of Al Jazeera Documentary Channel, had the honour of opening the Festival, and it is my pleasure to close it," said Đođić.

He expressed gratitude to the audience for dedicating their time to watch the documentary films screened at the AJB DOC Film Festival.

"For six years now, the second weekend of September has been reserved for our Festival, and I hope we will continue with this organization until our tenth anniversary, when I will be able to confidently say to reserve this date for AJB DOC. We are in the sixth year, so I cannot say that definitely yet, but I am hopeful that  are on the right path," Đođić said.

"I would like to express my gratitude once again to the authors, guests, the audience, employees, and collaborators who worked on the organization, volunteers, and all our partners, and I invite you to enjoy one more film and to vote at the end," he concluded.

Following that, a screening of Viktor Portel’s film “The Investigator” took place, which follows the work of Vladimir Dzura, the only Czech investigator who worked for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. With Dzura, Portel takes the audience on a metaphorical but also highly realistic journey through the locations of his investigations in the former Yugoslavia, where they encounter witnesses of ethnically motivated crimes.

During the five festival days, the audience of the 6th AJB DOC had the opportunity to enjoy a carefully curated selection of high-quality documentary films. United by this year's theme “Right(S)”, these films addressed human right issues in a specific and timely manner.

In addition to film screenings, in collaboration with the Al Jazeera Media Institute in Doha, and in partnership with UNFPA and Samsung, a training session for young filmmakers on "Smartphone Documentary Film Production" was conducted. Furthermore, in collaboration with the Oyoun Cultural Center from Berlin, a panel discussion titled "The Role of Film and Art in Remembrance Culture: The Rwandan, Uighur, and Bosnian Perspectives" took place.

Furthermore, an exhibition of black-and-white photographs with the symbolic title 'Rights,' by Đorđe Kostić, Al Jazeera's producer of the Digital Newsroom and correspondent from Belgrade, was set up at the Bosnian Cultural Center.

Also, as a part of AJB DOC, from September 9th to 11th, the second edition of "Al Jazeera Documentary Industry Days @ AJB DOC" was held, with an aim of strengthening and supporting the expansion of documentary film production worldwide.

This year, significant co-production awards in the amount of $70,000 were presented, along with partner monetary awards totalling nearly $20,000, as well as other valuable in-kind awards.

The Sixth AJB DOC Film Festival was held under the sponsorship of BH Telecom.