– The main prize of the festival’s 61st edition went to Juri Rechinsky and Pierre Crom’s documentary Signs of War, with Sudabeh Mortezai’s Europa receiving a special award

Societal injustice, war and female emancipation rule the Viennale awards

left to right: Thea Ehre (Jury Vienna Film Award), City Councillor for Culture Veronica Kaup-Hasler, Director Juri Rechinksy (Sings of War), Eva Klampfer (Jury Vienna Film Award) and festival director Eva Sangiorgi (© Viennale/Peter Griesser)

With another festival edition successfully coming to a close, the 61st Viennale celebrated films and awards on 31 October. The festival ended on something of a lighter note, with a screening of Yannick [+see also:
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by satirical French director Quentin Dupieux. As for the awarded films, meditations on topics such as the current war zones, social injustice, generational trauma and female emancipation bagged the prestigious trophies.

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The Vienna Film Award for the Best Austrian Film went to the Austrian-Ukraine documentary Signs of War by Juri Rechinsky and Pierre Crom. It documents the war in Ukraine from a journalist’s perspective, from the attack on Crimea to the efforts of Russian armed forces trying to take over Kyiv. Per the jury statement, the film managed to make “magnificent images come alive not only on the screen but also in our hearts. In terms of content, it captivates us with its temporal and political relevance, leaving us speechless.” 

The Special Jury Prize went to Europa [+see also:
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interview: Sudabeh Mortezai
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by Sudabeh Mortezai, an Austrian-UK co-production. The film follows Beate, an executive working at EUROPA, a corporation looking to buy land from locals in a remote valley in Southern Albania. There, Beate comes into conflict with the locals, who do not wish to abandon their land. The Jury saw it as “a film that rightly confronts us Central Europeans in a painful and unsparing way with our privileges.”

As in the prior year, the Erste Bank MehrWERT Award was awarded to two films. One went to Losing Faith (Die ängstliche Verkehrsteilnehmerin) by Martha Mechow, an Austrian-German co-production. The plot follows Flippa, a woman once abandoned by her mother in her young years, as she sets out to find her older sister. On her journey, Flippa further examines the role assigned to women by society. The jury lauded the movie for exploring “the conviction that Western society is in dire need of transformation, but it is also aware of the possibility of falling into the trap of self-referential self-righteousness”.

The second award went to Rickerl, an Austrian-German co-production by Adrian Goiginger. The film features the acting debut of singer Voodoo Jürgens and portrays an out-of-luck singer, looking for success and a good relationship with his son but mostly struggling with self-sabotage. The jury praised Jürgens especially, explaining that he “embodies the main character of this film, in which biographical elements of the singer-songwriter are also interwoven.”

The award of the DER STANDARD Reader Jury went to the Japanese Shadow of Fire (Hokage) by Tsukamoto Shinya, which deals with the daily struggles of the Japanese in the aftermath of the Second World War. The jury called it a film “that leaves a lasting impression – just as the consequences of wars continue to have an effect after the end of the war.” The jury also gave an honourable mention to the German-Mexican film The Echo [+see also:
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by Tatiana Huezo.

The FIPRESCI Award went to the Estonian-French-Icelandic documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood [+see also:
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interview: Anna Hints
film profile
]
by Anna Hints, where women meet in a sauna to converse about their experiences with love, life, death and violence. The jury applauded Hints, who “approaches sensitive subjects in an organic way.”

The festival’s success was not only reflected in the wide array of movies awarded, but also in the popularity of its screenings. The Viennale managed to accumulate several sold-out screenings not only of so-called “bigger” films, but also of smaller special programmes. 75,300 people attended screenings this year, while another 14,000 attended the framework programme at the Viennale headquarters. As artistic director Eva Sangiorgi recaps, “This is our place of peace and reflection, which I called for on the opening day — a small, thoroughly responsible contribution in this day and age.”

Here is the full list of winners:

Vienna Film Award for Best Austrian Film
Signs of War – Juri Rechinsky and Pierre Crom (Austria/Ukraine)

Special Award of the Jury
Europa [+see also:
film review
interview: Sudabeh Mortezai
film profile
]
– Sudabeh Mortezai (Austria/UK)

Viennale Award of the DER STANDARD Reader Jury
Shadow of Fire – Tsukamoto Shinya (Japan)

FIPRESCI Award
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Anna Hints
film profile
]
– Anna Hints (Estonia/France/Iceland)

Erste Bank MehrWERT Award
Losing Faith – Martha Mechow (Austria/Germany)
Rickerl – Adrian Goiginger (Austria/Germany)

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