Jury report: 2021 IDFA Competition for Youth Documentary

    Jury statement

    We believe that films made for young audiences are the most important and impactful films being made. The right film can change the course of a young person’s life, and many of the films we saw will be a life-changing experience for the right young person somewhere.

    Not every film can win, and a film in the selection voiced this better than we could: “If your mind is too focused on winning, you forget everything good around you.”

    We were deeply encouraged by the films shortlisted for this year’s award, which brought to life important values that increase the vibrancy, relevance, and provocativeness of our shared discipline for ever-growing young audiences.

    They rejected pre-conceived ideas, instead representing a complex, humanistic, and never-patronizing depiction of young people’s experiences. They championed voices traditionally underserved by documentary film.

    We have a deep respect for the filmmakers, who often devoted years of their lives to seeking answers to the ethical challenges of our discipline, through their empathy, actions, and strong moral compass.

    The best films, in our view, are made in collaboration with their young participants. Made not for outsiders’ entertainment, but because a truth needs to be told and shared with peers, they have the capacity to build common bonds with young people across the globe.

    Special Mention

    We decided to use the Special Mention to highlight our favorite short-form work. In the uplifting of its protagonist, its structural and visual poetry, and its sensitivity without sentimentality, the film avoided stereotypes. Focusing on friendship overcoming hurdles created by adults, the work showed us the perspective of a young man with a disability without it ever defining him. Our Special Mention goes to Water, Wind, Dust, Bread by Mahdi Zamanpoor Kiasari.

    IDFA Award for Best Youth Film

    Our winning film was presented with a playful integrity and multi-layered complexity that defied preconceptions at every turn. It celebrated the warmth, ingenuity, and emotional intelligence of its protagonist whilst also illuminating the very real challenges of surviving and self-defining in an often-hostile environment. In its rhythm and visuals, the film lived its values in a way that felt true to its subject, playing with our understanding of fact and fiction to reveal a broader emotional truth that we believe is relevant to young people everywhere. Shabu by Shamira Raphaëla.

    See the jury
    See the selection

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