Triumph of regional authors at the 8th STIFF

The last day of the 8th Student International Film Festival was marked by the award ceremony where the winners of the best documentary, fiction, and animated films were announced. Between over 700 submitted and 38 selected films, 2 films from Croatia won the award – a documentary film by Jasmina Beširević Now I Am Irena, and fiction film by Sara Grgurić In The Woods, while the award for best animated film went to Samuel Patthey and Silvain Monney from Switzerland for the film Peel. Special mention in the same category went to another Croatian filmmaker Natko Stipaničev for the film Arka.

Three-member juries of the 8th STIFF – for fiction, documentary, and animation, had their hands full choosing the best from each category.

Documentary film jury – Goran Dević, Bela Bračko-Milešević, and Sara Huskić awarded the film Now I am Irena directed by Jasmina Beširević (Croatia, 2021, Academy of Dramatic Arts, Zagreb) with the explanation: Young filmmaker manages to introspectively lead her protagonist through personal trauma. In a clear and honest relationship, together they played out a dramatic situation from which this brilliant documentarist miniature was born. For her creative maturity with which she speaks about verbal domestic abuse, the jury awards Jasmina Besirevic and her film “Now I Am Irena” for this year’s best documentary film. Special mention went to Cornelian Cherries directed by Nikola Stojanović (Serbia, 2020, Academy of Dramatic Arts, Belgrade). In jury’s words: Through a seemingly bizarre event, Nikola Stojanović, the creator of the movie “Cornelian Cherries”, bravely portraits universal family issues. Even though he created the movie all by himself, he manages to stay focused, his characters lively and honest, thus evoking at the same time unusual and familiar emotions.

The winner of the fiction film category was decided by Sanjin Stanić, Tomislav Šoban, and Matija Zanoškar. The award went to the director Sara Grgurić for her film In the Woods (Croatia, 2020, Academy of Dramatic Arts, Antitalent), continuing her winning streak after the Nest award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival and Golden Pram at the Zagreb Film Festival:

On their journey in the time of pandemics, we are brought to a place, that at first seems idyllic for isolation. Although idyllic isolation is rare, it is even rarer to have a film recorded on 16mm film. In a convincing and explicit way of directing it shows us the difficult period for two young people imprisoned in routine. In a relationship that is immersed in tradition, we soon realize that one of the protagonists wants to leave for already quite some time. Devoid from emphasis and any black or white division, it gradually builds an inability of communication between the two main characters whose relationship transfers a sense of claustrophobia to the audience. Photography was well thought through, mise en scene was memorable, montage was fluid.., film In the woods leaves you breathless.

Special mention went to the film Dustin (France, 2020, Square Eyes) by the French director Naïla Guiguet with the explanation: Miss Dustin leads us to one of the most realistic re-enactments of late-night parties in film. All the way from the Rave party to the daylight after party we are introduced to the identity issues of transgender people through relations among the queer community. Without cliches, without any judgment, without embellishment, without mystification, it was fair, ethereal, erotic, and poetic. For sure one of the most memorable films we watched.

The only category where the award didn’t go to women is the animated film award decided by Ivana Pipal, Auden Lincoln-Vogel, and Ana Klepo, and the award went to the Swiss film Peel by Samuel Patthey and Silvain Monney (Switzerland, 2020, Square Eyes). In the words of the jury: An outstanding animated film that focuses on an often-overlooked space occupied by people who are also often overlooked. The filmmaker’s commitment to the artistic practice of careful observation and visual meditation is apparent throughout the film and allows them to strike a poetic harmony between documentary distance and subjective impression. The film’s drawing style and limited animation are filled with subtle details that acquire a tactile intensity as a result of the masterful sound design. Much to the jury’s pleasant surprise, this subtlety only becomes more engaging and poignant as a result of the film’s slow pace.

Special mention went to the film Arka (Croatia, 2020, Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb, Creative Union) by Natko Stipaničev with the explanation: Enchanting atmosphere combined with skillful direction and smart idea makes this film a memorable cinematographic experience and leaves you with a sense of delicate humor that addresses the acceptance of slow extinction and inability to change course while everyday life becomes absurdly pointless.

Besides the jury awards, the festival visitors decided on the Audience Choice Award that went to the documentary film from Israel Open Your Mouth directed by Tamara Mamon.

The design of this year’s awards was made by Natalija Stefanović and the visual identity of the festival by Gea Rajić.

8th STIFF Festival that took place from 4th to 7th of November in Rijeka’s Art-kino cinema gathered numerous international guests, authors, film workers, and film lovers; 38 films were screened in the competition program and 5 outside of competition; discussions with the authors completed the film experience, an international exhibition In Transmission at the Gallery SKC additionally explored the festival theme body and the visitors had a chance to experience a transformative visual journey live, despite the challenging situation we are in.

Student International Film Festival – STIFF was produced in 2014. by Filmaktiv and Student Culture Centre of the University of Rijeka (SKC) with the goal of presenting the best of current student and debutant film production in the world.

STIFF  is supported by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre, City of Rijeka, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, University of Rijeka, the “Kultura nova” Foundation,  and National Foundation for Civil Society Development.