‘Motherland,’ About Brutality of Belarusian Regime, Picks Up Top Award at CPH:DOX

The top Dox:Award at CPH:DOX, the Copenhagen documentary festival, has gone to “Motherland” by Ukrainian-Belarusian director Alexander Mihalkovich (“My Granny From Mars”) and Belarusian director Hanna Badziaka.

Described by Variety as “an ominous portrait of the oppressive culture of cruelty in post-Soviet Belarus,” the film follows Svetlana, whose son died during his military service as the result of violent abuse, in her quest to expose and prosecute those responsible for his death.

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Dedicating the award to “all the Ukrainians fighting Russian aggression and to Belarusian political prisoners,” the directing duo thanked all those who helped them make the film, in particular the protagonists, “who were brave to stand in front of the camera and patient with us as it was a long journey of four years.”

Handing out the prize, the jury said: “This was such a cinematic and meaningful film that took its time unfolding the complexity of living within an oppressive and unjust system. It poses questions about the idea of an individual choice within a cornered society. The title of the film is a way to give back the power to the women who are at the forefront of this fight.”

“Motherland” was one of 13 films, all world premieres, competing for the main prize at this 20th edition.

Celebrating the anniversary, the festival’s artistic director Niklas Engstrøm emerged from a large cardboard cake on stage, drawing cheers and laughter from the crowd gathered in Copenhagen’s Kunsthal Charlottenborg, one of the largest exhibition spaces for contemporary art in Northern Europe, which traditionally turns into the CPH:DOX headquarters.

The Dox:Award runner-up was “On the Edge” (“État Limite”) by France’s Nicolas Peduzzi (“Southern Belle,” “Ghost Song”), “a film that gripped us, and took us on a journey through the labyrinth of a human mind,” said the jury. It tells the story of a young doctor with a humanist spirit who fights a daily battle to hold together the run-down Paris hospital where he works.

The F:act Award, dedicated to political and journalistic films and sponsored by the NGO International Media Support (IMS) and the Danish Union of Journalists, went to Berlin winner “Seven Winters in Tehran,” German director Steffi Niederzoll’s debut feature.

It retraces the life of Reyhaneh Jabbari, a young Iranian woman who was sentenced to death after fatally stabbing the man who was trying to rape her, and is voiced by “Holy Spider” actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi.

“The Hostage Takers” by Puk Damsgaard and Søren Klovborg, a hostage drama based on a shocking interview with two life-sentenced British ISIS members, was awarded a special mention.

“Mrs. Hansen & the Bad Companions” by Denmark’s Jella Bethmann picked up the Nordic:Dox Award for Nordic documentaries. Special Mention went to “Lynx Man” by Finland’s Juha Suonpää (“Wolfman,” “Vuores”).

The New:Vision Award, which celebrates experimental and artists’ films, went to “An Asian Ghost Story” by Bo Wang. A double special mention went to “The Secret Garden” by Nour Ouayda and “Pacific Club” by Valentin Noujaïm.

The Next:Wave Award for emerging filmmakers was handed out to “Queendom” by Agniia Galdanova (“One Step Forward, One Step Back”), a 2022 CPH:Forum pitch project. It tells the story of Gena, a queer artist from a small town in Russia, who dresses in otherworldly costumes made from junk and tape, and protests the government on the streets of Moscow.

“The Last Year of Darkness” by Benjamin Mullinkosson, which takes viewers inside China’s underground partying scene, received a special mention.

IDFA winner “Apolonia, Apolonia,” in which Danish docmaker Lea Glob follows up-and-coming French painter Apolonia Sokol over the course of 13 years, won the Politiken:DOX Award, sponsored by the Politiken Foundation of leading Danish newspaper Politiken.

Special Mention went to “The Mountains” by Denmark’s Christian Einshøj, described as “a young director’s brave film about his family and two adult brothers as they try to break the ice and delve into the family’s past to finally reach each other.”

The awards wrap up the 20th edition of a festival, which will have seen a whopping 180 live events organized around films in and around Copenhagen, drawing the likes Joan Baez and Wim Wenders, and no fewer than 600 screenings in venues across the Danish capital.

The 20th edition of CPH:DOX runs in Copenhagen until March 26.

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