Disturbed Earth

Source: DMZ Docs

‘Disturbed Earth’

South Korea’s DMZ International Documentary Film Festival (DMZ Docs) has awarded its top prize to Disturbed Earth, a reflection on the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica during the Bosnian War.

The documentary, directed by Kumjana Novakova and Guillermo Carreras-Candi, won the grand prize in the festival’s international competition, which comes with $14,000 (KW20m).

Carreras-Candi attended the closing ceremony on Thursday (September 29) and said: “Our work goes into the reality of post-war in Bosnia-Herzogovina and Srebrenica. We’ve been living there and experiencing in real time the faces of the war and the faces of pain, and how hard it is to struggle even 25 years after war and after the tragic events happened.”

The documentary premiered at Sarajevo Film Festival in 2021 and is a co-production between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spain and North Macedonia.

DMZ Docs’ closing night ceremony began with an anti-war video made by documentary filmmakers in Ukraine with the support of the festival. Carreras-Candi, who hails from Catalonia but is based in Sarajevo, drew parallels with the Bosnian War and the ongoing conflict.

“We saw the video about Ukraine,” he said. “Conflicts that are just now beginning are going to leave, unfortunately, the traces of pain for years and decades. I hope films and platforms like this help awareness of how important it is to [spread the word] of this kind of conflict.”

The 14th DMZ Docs ran from September 22-29 and marked its first fully in-person event since the start of the pandemic. A total of 137 films from 53 countries were screened, of which 80 are available on the festival’s proprietary streaming platform VoDA (Vision of Documentary Archive) until October 2.

It opened with the international premiere of Luke Cornish’s Keep Stepping, an Australian documentary about street dance contestants, which screened at the outdoor stage of Imjingak Pyeonghwanuri Park. Imjingak is a pavilion located on the banks of the Imjin River where North Korea can be seen on the other side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

The festival closed last night at the Megabox Baeksuk in Goyang city, near the DMZ, with a screening of Disturbed Earth.

Industry support

The festival also runs the DMZ Docs Industry programme that provides a total of $382,200 (KW550m) in support to filmmakers at project stage.

It has quietly been drawing a consistent following from other film festival organisers including from International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and Hot Docs, which each partner with DMZ on awards, as well as potential co-producers, buyers and sellers seeking documentaries from Asia.

Attendees noted that DMZ Docs fits well into the calendar ahead of Mipcom, which takes place from October 17-20 in Cannes.

“We have many Korean and Asian titles in our catalogue and they are very appealing to the international audience,” said Aleksandra Derewienko, sales and acquisitions executive at Paris-based sales agent Cat&Docs.

“For this reason, we are keen to find more films and projects from the region. DMZ Docs is a great place to meet the local filmmakers as well as Asian ones. I met several producers with interesting projects and rough cuts so I truly hope some of them will join our catalogue.”

DMZ Docs festival director Xangdean Jung said: “I’ve asked myself why DMZ Docs is so important and why it is necessary. If you see the films here, including the ones that were awarded at the closing ceremony, you’ll notice that the film that won the Asian competition - [Midwives] - was supported a few years ago, before DMZ Docs had its industry programme, by the now defunct Docs Port Incheon, which gave rise to it. And it came to the festival’s Asian Competition and won two awards.”

Midwives is a Myanmar-Germany-Canada co-production that follows midwives for discriminated-against Rohingya women in Myanmar. Directed by Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing, it premiered at Sundance where it won a special jury award. At DMZ Docs, the film won the Asian Competition’s grand prize of $10,500 (KW15m) and the Next Award, which comes with $700 (KW1m), given by a student jury.

The festival director also mentioned Vietnamese film Children Of The Mist, which played in the international competition, directed by Dien Ha Le. The debut feature follows a teenage Hmong girl and her experiences with her people’s tradition of bride kidnapping. The documentary premiered in IDFA’s 2021 international competition and went on to screen at Hot Docs in Toronto.

“When I came here four years ago, my English wasn’t good but the people at DMZ Docs gave me a lot of help,” said Le at a screening of her film earlier in the week. “The project won DMZ Pitch support in 2019 and we were able to receive more festival support [including from IDFA’s project fund and Busan’s Asian Cinema Fund] after that. So I’m glad to be back to show how important DMZ is to Asian filmmakers like me.”

At this year’s DMZ Docs Industry Production Pitch, the best Korean project prize went to Lee Yeojin’s Colors Of The Wind (working title) while the best Asian project award went to Subina Shrestha’s Nepal project Devi. Each received $21,000 (KW30m).