Doc-in-Progress ‘Islands of the Winds’ About Fight for Democracy in Taiwan Wins Top Award at Cannes Industry Event (EXCLUSIVE)

The highest award for docs-in-progress at the Cannes Film Market’s sidebar dedicated to documentary, Cannes Docs, has gone to Ya-Ting Hsu’s debut feature doc “Islands of the Winds.”

Twenty years in the making, the film follows the anti-eviction struggle of the patients of Losheng Sanatorium for lepers, which became a symbol of the fight for democracy in Hsu’s native Taiwan.

The prize comes with a €10,000 ($10,800) cash prize and project follow-up by IEFTA (the International Emerging Film Talent Assn.).

It is produced by Hsu’s Taiwan-based Argosy Films and Media Productions, Huang Yin-Yu (Moolin Films, Ltd. & Moolin Production, Co., Ltd, Taiwan and Japan) and Baptiste Brunner (Wide Productions – La Cuisine aux Images, France).

Handing out the prize, the jury, composed of Angeliki Vergou, head of Agora at Thessaloniki Doc Fest, French producer Karim Aitouna and Brazilian Fernanda Lomba, EP at Mundi Filmes and co-founder of NICHO 54, congratulated the film “for its patience, dedication and the respectful way the filmmaker approached this grass-roots movement with an engaged and passionate camera. For their intention to fight against oblivion and treat her characters with the dignity they deserve.”

The Al Jazeera Documentary Award, which includes a minimum co-production contribution by Al Jazeera Documentary of $15,000 ($18,600), went to “Once Upon a Time in a Forest,” directed and produced by Virpi Suutari (“Garden Lovers,” “Entrepreneur”).

Described as a morality play and a love story between the young generation and the Finnish forest, the doc follows 22-year-old Ida, who leads a movement fighting to defend one of the last coniferous forest areas in Europe.

Awarding the prize, Al Jazeera Documentary Channel’s Adel Ksiksi and Mehdi Bekkar commended a “call-to-action project by a brave young generation for its compelling storytelling and visually stunning cinematography; it engages the audience on an emotional level, stirring empathy, and inspiring a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world.”

“Meril” by Swedish director Victoria Verseau (“Exercise One,” “To Be Unclear”), about gender transitioning and what comes afterwards, picked up the new €5,000 ($5,400) post-production award, sponsored by the Cannes Film Festival’s technical partner Hiventy.

The jury commended the director “for tackling an intimate experience with a powerful, personal and deep cinematic language.”

“Meril” is produced by Malin Hüber (HER Film, Sweden) and Mathilde Raczymow (Les Films du Bilboquet, France).

It follows Maka, the daughter of a strict math teacher and high-maintenance mother, on a journey around post-Soviet Georgia to observe children in the process of education. Set against the backdrop of intimate conversations with her mother, which reveal two women of different generations, with different experiences and clashing perspectives, the film offers a reflection on parenting, education and systems of power.

It is produced by Gogoladze (Formo Production, Georgia), and Anke Petersen and Lilian Tieyjen (Jyoti Film, Germany).

Chilean doctor-turned-director Antonio Caro’s “Life,” about Fresia, an 18-year-old indigenous girl whose life is upended and has to move away from her home when she gets pregnant, received the Think-Film Impact Award. It includes a strategic impact workshop and an impact pitching coaching session by the Think-Film Impact Production team.

Handing out the award, the jury commended “a film with a beautifully dedicated intention and approach that raises awareness about the Mapuche people in Chile and their struggles with modern society, and for expanding the power of this message.”

“Life” is produced by Michel Toledo (Tótem Producciones, Chile).

The Documentary Association of Europe Award, which comes with a free one-year membership and a rough cut consultation with one of DAE’s senior advisors, went to Andrea Suwito’s debut feature “A Distant Call,” about a remote village in South Sulawesi, where an ancient Indonesian way of life recognizes five genders – men, women, transmen, transwomen and a fifth, gender-neutral category.

Producers are Finbar Somers (Umbra Motion Picture Company, U.K.), Mandy Marahimin (Talamedia, Indonesia) and Xavier Rocher (La Fabrica Nocturna Cinéma, France).

And finally, the new Docs in Orbit Invitation Award, which invites the winner to be featured on the Docs in Orbit podcast, including an interview with the filmmaker for the world premiere and year-round exposure on the Docs in Orbit website and social media, went to “The Soldier’s Lagoon,” directed and produced by cinematographer Pablo Álvarez Mesa (“Fire of Love”) .

The winners were chosen from 32 non-fiction works in the final stages of post-production presented to industry decisions makers across eight showcases, from Canada, Scandinavia, Chile and CIRCLE Women Doc Accelerator, as well as newcomers Scotland, Italy, Spain and Docs By The Sea, which features films from Asia.

Cannes Docs ran as part of the Marché du Film in Cannes from May 18 through May 23.

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