Announcing the Award Winners of Open City Documentary Festival 2021

Pictured L-R: Matthew Barrington (Jury Member; Open City & Emerging Filmmaker Awards), Lucy Parker (Jury Member; Open City & Emerging Filmmaker Awards), Morgan Quaintance (Winner; UK Short Film Award), Qila Gill (Jury Member; UK & International Short Film Awards), Onyeka Igwe (Honourable Mention; UK Short Film Award)

We are delighted to announce the winners of this year’s Open City Documentary Festival. There were four award categories: UK Short Film Award, International Short Film Award, Emerging Filmmaker Award, and Open City Award. The winners and nominees are listed below.


Winner: Surviving You, Always dir. Morgan Quaintance (2020)

Jury Statement: The complexity shown in Surviving You, Always by Morgan Quaintance haunts the reverie of youth and romance as it simplifies and complicates the textuality of time, memory, and intimacy. Unfolding from something playful as he marshals in the personal voice into a more sombre note, we were all hypnotised by his intelligence to create a heavily layered piece while still remaining democratic throughout.

Honourable Mention: a so-called archive dir. Onyeka Igwe (2020)

Jury Statement: Here, Igwe’s project juxtaposes footage from the physical remnants of the Nigerian Film Unit in Lagos with Bristol’s former British Empire and Commonwealth Museum to produce a superb visual meditation on the spheres of colonial conquest. In doing so, the text’s central provocation that asks us to interrogate the very ethics of the spectacle of the colonial archive exposes not just the deep colonial legacies permeating Britain’s unreflective cultural institutions, but equally the thin politics of the post-multicultural gesture located within the broader crisis of liberal anti-racism. This demonstrates another part of Igwe’s continuingly evolving and expanding filmic oeuvre, one that rejects the westernised spectacularizing of the Black and Brown imagery for the more considered use of expansive soundscapes and audial modes to produce a particularly striking form of affect.



Winner: Letter From Your Far-Off Country dir. Suneil Sanzgiri (2020)

Jury Statement: Our fascination with Suneil Sanzgiri’s Letter From Your Far-Off Country lies in his mysterious way of assembling and unsilencing a muted history in a complex visual syntax based on narrative, continuity, and realism. In displacing the formality of film, it subverts the physicality of individualism and affectively remains to be a collective voice. It is really exciting to see a work that transcends spatial logic as it derives a new index for what the art of non-fiction could be.



Winner: Lost Course dir. Jill Li (2021)

Jury Statement: The Emerging Filmmaker award goes to Jill Li for her extraordinary and formidable testament to people’s struggles for governance in Lost Course. The jury recognizes the feat of its immersive, temporally intensive, and operatic exploration of uprisings and their longue duree as it considers the multifaceted workings of movements of resistance to corruption in Wukan. The film exposes the complex ways that public protest, social bonds and collective aspirations are made, held, and also broken with great sensitivity and urgency.

Honourable Mention: Shady River dir. Tatiana Mazú González (2020)

Jury Statement: Amidst a bountiful slate of nominees, honorable mention for the Emerging Filmmaker award is given to Tatiana Mazu Gonzalez’s Rio Turbio/Shady River for a commitment to the difficulties of documenting archival absence and to the voices of women sidelined by this coal mining town’s gendered history of labour struggle. Gonzalez attends to the challenge of filming a space from which women have been barred with the vigor of experimentation and the delicacy of speculation, producing a richly resonating work that follows the cross hatchings of submerged testimonies and gender’s spatial materiality in Argentine history.



Joint Winners: Icarus (after Amelia) dir. Margaret Salmon (2021) & After the Crossing dir. Joël Richmond Mathieu Akafou (2020)

Jury Statement: We decided to split the prize between After the Crossing by Joël Richmond Mathieu Akafou and Icarus (after Amelia) by Margaret Salmon. Both films tackled vitally important subjects with a great deal of empathy and reflected nuanced approaches to their respective topics whist showcasing a mastery of their respective forms which we felt fit in with the vision for the festival and pushed at the boundaries of the documentary form.

Honourable Mention: From Where They Stood dir. Christophe Cognet (2021)

Jury Statement: We have decided to offer an honourable mention to From Where They Stood by Christophe Cognet. We felt the film approached a subject with an artistic approach shaped by rigour which shone a light onto questions of the image’s ability to document and speak for the past.

We would like to thank our jury members for taking the time to carefully watch and consider these films.

The jury for the UK Short Film and International Short Film Awards comprised Maeve Brennan, Qila Gill, Clive James Nwonka, and Adam Pugh.

The jury for the Emerging Filmmaker and Open City Awards comprised Matthew Barrington, Hyun Jin Cho, Elena Gorfinkel, Lucy Parker, and Sonali Joshi.