News: Open City Documentary Festival 2020 Awards Announced


Open City Documentary Festival is delighted to announce the winners of the 2020 festival awards. For the Assembly 2020 winner, please visit this page to find all the details.


The Open City Award is given by the Open City Jury to the film that exemplifies an author in control of their subject matter, craft and story – matching content and form in a powerful and persuasive fashion.

Nominated for the Open City Award were: Intimate Distances (Phillip Warnell, 2020), Purple Sea (Amel Alzakout, Khaled Abdulwahed, 2020), Sunless Shadows (Mehrdad Oskouei, 2019), and Victoria (2020, Sofie Benoot, Liesbeth De Ceulaer, Isabelle Tollenaere).

It was awarded to Sofie Benoot, Liesbeth De Ceulaer, Isabelle Tollenaere for Victoria. The jury said that “Victoria maps a territory of inscription through the work and diary reflections of Lashay T. Warren, a Black man who left Los Angeles to stake a claim and his survival in Cal City, a never-realized city in the California desert. In a post-utopian landscape, and through an effective combination of different devices, the film builds a complex portrait of an individual’s relationship to space, history, and the power of naming.”

A Special Mention was given to Mehrdad Oskouei for Sunless Shadows. The jury said that Sunless Shadows is  “an intimate, powerfully crafted, and necessary film that gives voice to women who have had their voices taken away by the state and by their families.”

The jury consisted of: Ehsan Khoshbakht (curator, filmmaker: Filmfarsi), Joanna Natasegara (producer: Virunga, The Edge of Democracy), Genevieve Yue (academic, writer, programmer), chaired by Susana de Sousa Dias (filmmaker: 48, Fordlandia Malaise).

Watch Victoria now, available until 15th September.


The Emerging International Filmmaker Award is presented to a first or second time feature filmmaker who displays new and exciting approaches to storytelling, and who exhibits commitment to their choices and a clear directorial vision.

Nominated for the Emerging International Filmmaker Award were: Bird Island (Maya Kosa, Sergio da Costa, 2019), Makongo (Elvis Sabin Ngaïbino, 2020), The Choice (Gu Xue, 2020), and The Lake and The Lake (Sindhu Thirumalaisamy, 2019).

It was awarded to Gu Xue for The Choice. The jury said that they chose to award The Choice for “its bold formal gestures that eloquently address cultural dynamics of gender, class, and generation, with patient familiarity.”

A Special Mention was given to Elvis Sabin Ngaïbino for Makongo, “for its attention to the complex relationship between Indigeneous communities and capitalism reflected through its moments of stillness, congregation, and action.”

The jury was: Dessane Lopez Cassell (curator, writer, editor), Jessica Sarah Rinland (filmmaker: Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another, Black Pond), and Rehana Zaman (filmmaker: Your Ecstatic Self, Tell me the story Of all these things), chaired by Julian Ross (researcher, curator, writer).

Watch The Choice now, available until 15th September.


This award is given to the short film that demonstrates the most engaging, innovative and compelling approach to short-form documentary — a film that would best represent UK talent at an international level and that demonstrates promise for the filmmaker’s future career.

Supported by the British Council, the UK Short Film Award nominees were: Contoured Thoughts (Evan Ifekoya, 2019), I Will Become More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine (Paul Greenleaf, 2019), Sight Unseen (Alessandra Ferrini, 2019), Signal 8 (Simon Liu, 2019), So They Say (Ayo Akingbade, 2019), The Way We Wait (Ji Yoon Park, 2020), and 3 Logical Exits (Mahdi Fleifel, 2020).

It was awarded to Mahdi Fleifel for 3 Logical Exits. About their choice, the jury said that “this exploration of the stark realities facing young Palestinan refugees and workers in Lebanon asks important questions about the representation of violence and vulnerability in documentary work. Filmed over ten years, the filmmaker showed a deep engagement with the subject, carefully handling the interplay between the personal and political with a strikingly cinematic approach and thoughtfully crafted narrative.”

The jury also gave a special mention to Ayo Akingbade for So They Say, saying that “this tender and intergenerational approach to the archive of the community and history of local action has a strong resonance with the current climate of racial injustice in the UK. The creative reconstruction of 1980s activism created a space to spotlight those who had been doing the work of organising for many years and continue to today.”

The jury for this award was: Claire Marie Healy (writer, editor, Dazed), Lawrence Lek (artist, musician, filmmaker: AIDOL, Geomancer), and Lindsay Poulton (Head of Documentaries, The Guardian), chaired by Rhea Storr (researcher, filmmaker: A Protest, A Celebration, A Mixed Message, Junkanoo Talk).

Watch 3 Logical Exits now, available until 15th September.


This award, awarded by the International Shorts Jury, is presented to the film that best demonstrates a clear artistic vision, control of craft and the most engaging, innovative and compelling approach to short-form documentary.

The International Short Film Award nominees were: A Crowd (Yeonu Ju, 2020), A Song About Love (Rikki Wright, 2019), Cloud Forest (Elaine Esther Bots, 2019), Erpe-Mere (Noemi Osselaer, 2019), Good Ended Happily (Basir Mahmood, 2019), Reserve (Gerard Ortín Castellví, 2020), Spit On The Broom (Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich, 2019) and This is an Address (Sasha Gilbert Wortzel, 2019).

It was awarded to Basir Mahmood for Good Ended Happily. The jury said that: “Good Ended Happily has been unanimously selected by the jury because it provokes new inquiries through its innovative form.”

The jury for this award was: Jay Bernard (programmer, poet, writer: Surge, The Red and Yellow Nothing). Joseph Fahim (critic, programmer), and Juan Pablo González (filmmaker: Caballerango, Las Nubes), and the chair was Jeanelle Augustin (curator, editor).

Open City Documentary Festival celebrates the art of non-fiction across film, audio documentaries and cross-media projects. The tenth edition is ongoing, taking place online between 9th and 15th September.

Watch Good Ended Happily free, available until 15th September.