Matthew’s Laws, Dutch filmmaker Marc Schmidt’s journey into the world of autism, was awarded the Grand Prix at Nyon’s Visions du Réel International Documentary Film Festival in Switzerland (Apr 20-27), which reported admissions up year-on-year by 4,000 to 25,000.

The International Competition’s Jury, which included Swiss filmmaker Peter Liechti and UK producer Simon Kilmurry, gave its special prize for the most innovative feature documentary to J-P Passi and Jukka Kärikkäinen’s The Punk Syndrome, while a special mention went to Jessica Gorter’s 900 Days, the winner of the Interreligious Jury’s Prize.

Other awards included the SSA/Suissimage Grand Prix for best swiss feature documentary to Manuel von Stürler’s debut Hiver Nomade, the Prix Regard Neuf for Pary El-Qalquili’s The Turtle’s Rage, described by the Regard Neuf jury as “a film of great clarity, born of an urgent emotional necessity”, the Young Audience Jury Award for Lukasz Konopa’s After and the Prix George Foundation for the best medium-length film to French director Louise Jaillette’s The Kid, the study of a boy between childhood and adolescence.

This year’s edition of Visions du Réel was the second one under new festival director Luciano Barisone and featured, among others, ateliers dedicated to filmmakers Samir, Kevin Jerome Everson and Arnaud des Pallières as well as a focus on emerging documentary cinema from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The parallel Doc Outlook – International Market introduced two innovations – the Talking DOCS networking events and the Rough Cut Lab, where film teams of a first or second film received expert advice from decision-makers about the best way to complete their film and gave industry delegates the chance to screen close to 400 films, including 70 Swiss titles, via the digital media library.

Three documentaries produced by the Wajda Studio in Warsaw found sales agents during Visions du Réel in Nyon where they had their international premieres: Radka Franczak’s Losing Sonia was picked up by Peter Jäger’s Vienna-based Autlook Films, while international sales on Paparazzi by Piotr Bernas and 3 Days Of Freedom by Lukasz Borowski will be handled by the UK sales company Sideways Films.

In addition, Doc Outlook hosted the seventh edition of Pitching du Réel, which presented 20 feature-length documentary projects in a series of public sessions and one-to-one meetings. They included Swiss director Mirjam von Arx’s Alive, to be produced by von Arx and Tanja Meding; UK filmmaker Lou McLoughlan’s Sixteen Years ‘Til Summer; and Swen de Pauw’s The World On A Couch.

  • The weekend also saw the ninth edition of Linz’s Crossing Europe Festival in Austria (Apr 24-29), wrapping with Polish husband-and-wife team Wilhelm and Anka Sasnal receiving the Crossing Europe Award in the European Competition for It Looks Pretty From A Distance. The feature debut had picked up the main prize in the Polish Feature Film Competition at Wroclaw’s New Horizons Film Festival last July and had its international premiere in Rotterdam at the beginning of this year.

Meanwhile, the New Vision Award went to Portuguese director Joao Canijo for Blood Of My Blood and was collected by actress Anabela Moreira, while the festival audience voted for Andrew Haigh’s Weekend as the winner of the Audience Award.

The Federation Of Film Critics Of Europe And The Mediterranean (FEDEORA) sent two juries to Linz for the first time this year to award prizes to documentaries in the Panorama sidebar. The prize for documentaries by directors aged under 33 went to Sebastian Mez’s A Letter From Germany with a special mention for Melanie Jilg’s Cemetery, while the award for directors over 33 was picked up by Switzerland’s Fernand Melgar for his report on asylum seekers Special Flight, with a special mention for Manuela Frésil’s Staff Entrance, a study of work in a meat factory.

Summing up this year’s festival on the final day (Apr 29), director Christine Dollhofer reported that the 2012 programme of films and accompanying events had attracted a record attendance of 21,000 visitors, up from 19,000 in 2011.

At the same time Dollhofer pointed out that the festival was chronically under-financed with a budget of less than €500,000 and that an “urgent increase” was necessary in order to secure the future of Crossing Europe and tackle structural improvements.

Negotiations will continue with funders and sponsors to ensure that the jubilee edition – from Apr 23-28, 2013 – will be on a better financial footing.