This year’s selection of first feature films was a testament to the power of the first-time feature filmmaker, guided by curiosity, intuition and a charming waywardness. We were fascinated by the films that challenged form in unprecedented ways, though we noticed an overall preference for story-driven work. This desire for coherence makes sense given the uncertainty of the last couple of years, and we applaud these filmmakers’ belief in the power of narrative to generate awareness and drive change. We were pleased to watch several works by female and queer filmmakers and to note that a large majority of the filmmakers were speaking from inside the community they chose to document. Many of these filmmakers displayed a consciousness of their power vis-à-vis their subject, and made the audience aware of their presence in interesting ways. We saw some particularly interesting work about sociological and architectural changes in landscape that led to important studies of modernity and gentrification. We would like to thank the festival for their commitment to profiling audacious and challenging early work and are very excited to see what all of these filmmakers do next.
Our Special Mention goes to an endlessly empathetic film that tackles subjects as fraught as gender, ethnicity, and modernity with an unflinching but non-judgmental eye. This filmmaker, who is also the film’s incredibly capable cinematographer, has created both an ethnographic portrait and a study of societal and familial relationships that broaches universal questions about freedom and responsibility. Thank you to Diem Ha Le for her generous Children of the Mist.
In little over an hour, this filmmaker managed to convey both the particularities of a brutal, masculinist nation, and the relational and individual struggles that constitute every urban community. Inside the mouth of a busy metro station in Moscow, the filmmaker throws us into close contact with a cast of idiosyncratic locals. With incredible aesthetic and editorial confidence, he never allows his viewer to sink back into the familiar comforts of “story” or “characters.” As a jury, we were particularly struck by the commitment to a form that allows the viewer to be particularly active. The IDFA Award for Best First Feature goes to Ruslan Fedotov’s Where Are We Headed.