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Cement and Witches - winners from Adelaide fest

David Tiley

From a film about witches to a fable from Japan, the recent batch of festival winners set the filmmaking bar very, very high.
Cement and Witches - winners from Adelaide fest

Image; I am Not a Witch, winner at the Adelaide Film Festival.

The jury for the Adelaide Film Festival's international competition has been spotted in various intense huddles around the festival, and at one basement bar where they determinedly refused to talk about their deliberations. 

Two of them, Miranda Dear now of Blackfella Films and NZ producer Catherine Martin are known to Australians. The international spice and diversity came from Portuguese director João Pedro Rodrigues, who won at Locarno for The Ornithologist, Afghani actress and UN Peace Ambassador Leena Alam, and Martin Rabarts who runs EYE International which promotes Dutch Cinema. 


The fiction winner was I am not a Witch, made by Rungano Nyoni, a young woman born in Zambia but now described as Welsh. It was produced by Juliet Grandmont and Emily Morgan. 


According to the Variety review,

'Perhaps more beautiful and strange than wholly satisfying, it’s nonetheless easy to see why Rungano Nyoni’s debut film arrives in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar of Cannes trailing ribbons of new-discovery buzz. A defiantly uncategorizable mix of superstition, satire and social anthropology, it tells the story of a small Zambian girl who is denounced as a witch and exiled to a witch camp, where she is alternately exploited and embraced. '

In their official statement the jury said:

‘As an International Jury we faced a surprising and compelling selection of films and filmmakers from around the world. The Jury found a unique and bold quality with I Am Not A Witch. Based on its originality it was surprising, funny and compelling. It is a bold debut feature from a director with her singular vision. We are excited to celebrate the work of a bright new talent.’

There is a lovely Q&A at the Cannes Directors' Fortnight.


The Flinders University Best Documentary Award was given to Taste of Cement, written and directed by Ziad Kalthoum, in a production put together from Germany, Lebanon, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.The producers are Mohammad Ali Atassi, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme and Tobias Siebert.  

The jury said:

Over the past week the documentary jury had the pleasure of viewing an array of diverse and fascinating documentaries. We deliberated long and hard before deciding upon Taste of Cement. The film is a poetic unfolding of war refugees rebuilding for other countries while their own is being destroyed. We admire the filmmaker's audacity, ambition and heart. Ziad is a director of talent and is to be encouraged.’ 

Here is the synopsis:

How migration, flight, and foreignness can be mediated through cinematography is demonstrated by a competition film from Lebanon: “Taste of Cement” by Ziad Kalthoum. The director, born in Syria in 1981, shows Syrian workers working in Beirut on the site of a high-rise building. They are refugees, trapped in the world of the construction site, where they live outside the working hours in the basement; Leaving the construction site is forbidden to them because of an evening exit lock for Syrian refugees.

The trailer is extraordinary.


About the author

David Tiley is the editor of Screen Hub.


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