Second AJB DOC Film Festival is Finished

After the official award ceremony, the honor to close this year’s AJB DOC was given to film “Little Star Rising” by Slađana Lučić.

The award ceremony began with a video overview of the second AJB DOC Film Festival, impressions from attendees and filmmakers, followed by a speech by Edhem Fočo, the Festival Director, who talked about the changes that came about because of second edition of AJB DOC.

The first award, presented by Tarik Đođić, Al Jazeera Balkans Director, was the Audience Award, and the recipient was film “The Long Shot”, directed by Alvaro Gonzalez-Aller and Oliver Valente.

The Long Shot is a film about the greatest success of the national basketball team of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its participation at the European Championship held in Germany in 1993, where it won the eighth place. This film was shown in the AJB Screening selection, and the audience rewarded the film directors with a long applause and standing ovation in the packed theater. 

That was followed by the Al Jazeera Balkans Programme Jury Award, which was decided by the jury consisting of Lejla Dedić, Sead Kreševljaković and Đani Hasečić. They decided to give the award to film “Girl in Return” by Katrina W. Kjaer, an intimate story of global importance about the consequences of systemic violation of human rights in the international adoption system, told from the perspective of a teenage girl as the main character of the film and her fight for justice. The award was presented by Sead Kreševljaković, member of the jury.

In explaining their decision, the Programme Jury stated that “change is necessary both for the individual and society”. The Programme Jury noted that this movie won their hearts, and in their decision, they wrote the following: “When they take away your culture, language and religion, they have taken everything from you. Should you accept that or fight the system and individuals? This film proves that any change is possible if you are determined enough and it also shows the strength of an individual.”

Members of the International Jury, experienced and world-renowned experts in documentary storytelling, Ademir Kenović from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Victoria Bruce from the United States, Ivana Pauerova from the Czech Republic, and Adel Ksiksi from the AL Jazeera Documentary Channel decided on the Competition Programme Main Award . The jury thanked the Director of AJB DOC and its selectors for “choosing incredible films for the Competition Programme that span every aspect of the human condition.”  

Before the Main Award, the international jury decided to give Special Mention to film “Patriotic Highway” by Caroline Troedsson, because they thought it brings an important perspective to this particular festival and to the world outside of the Balkans. Patriotic Highway is a film about the corruption trial of Kosovo minister Fatmir Limaj and Swedish judge Marie Tuma who presides over the trial.

In their decision, the jury noted that the director “skillfully executed dynamic tension while weaving a complicated narrative about a country rife with deep-seated corruption, the murky search for justice, and the unintended failure of the international actors”. The jury also believes that important films such as this can inspire filmmakers to tackle important Balkan stories that will start a serious dialogue about these critical issues in this region and across the globe.

The winner of the Main Award was film “For Sama” by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts, and for all members of the jury, that decision was unanimous. 

“This is a film about a young journalist mother, her doctor husband and their baby, Sama, living under siege in a makeshift hospital as bombs drop overhead in Allepo, Syria. The film unfolds as a story narrated by a mother to her child. In this unique method, we see and feel the intimate and direct emotions of the protagonist and those around her living through the daily terror”, the jury noted.

After the official award ceremony, the honor to close this year’s AJB DOC was given to film “Little Star Rising” by Slađana Lučić, about Nudžejma Softić, proofreader from Sarajevo and a girl who decided to use running to get through all of her life traumas and tragedies, while at the same time breaking social prejudice towards the hijab. Tamara Babun, a young producer with extensive experience in the world of documentary films, was also involved in making of this film. The longer version of the film was screened at this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival, and the television version was screened for the first time at the closing ceremony of the second edition of the AJB DOC Film Festival. 

During the second edition of the AJB DOC Film Festival, the award-winning British journalist Phil Rees and Al Jazeera Balkans News Editor Edo Čelebić held a workshop and training in investigative journalism, and film director Rawan Damen presented her project “Ambassador of Palestine: New Country, New Life”.

The second edition of Documentary Film Festival organized by Al Jazeera Balkans (AJB DOC) took place in Sarajevo from 20 to 24 September 2019. During the five festival days, the audience had an opportunity to see 23 documentary films of top quality. All of the films were encompassed by the AJB DOC’s slogan “Change”, used to indicate the ambition and need for change. Change is always taking place and is necessary both for the individual and society, as well as for technology and environment. However, the most important is the person who is strong enough to live through and initiate changes in his or her environment. The documentary films screened at AJB DOC definitely left a strong impression on the audience.