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Around Films International Film Festival 2021

Around International Film Awards is a network-based film collective built around the ideas of community, creativity, and support for independent cinema which is celebrating its 8th anniversary in 2021, and has just wrapped up its 2020 edition.

The festival, which started off online and has continued with in-person events for a few years, has decided to go “back to its roots”, rediscovering its potential due to the ongoing pandemic. Director of the Festival Onno Mara mentions that “Just as the rising new era came along with the “Grand Conjunction’’ in the sky, we will continue our journey on planet Earth as ARFF International & WSXA by taking charge of the network gatherings in each city together with WScreenShowCase. In 2020, through the platform Filmocracy, the festival was available for streaming from all over the world with participation from over 110 countries, in its four major events.”

This past year’s edition featured all four international events in subsequent days: ARFF Barcelona on December 26th, ARFF Paris December 27th, ARFF Amsterdam December 28th, ARFF Berlin December 29th and closing up with the Winners Announcement which happened on the 30th through the online festival and ARFF’s blog, Fest Regards.

The 8th edition of Around International Film Awards 2021 - Barcelona, coming up at the end of March through the platform Filmocracy, will be sided by the 5th edition of WSXA International Awards, a partner festival of the Around Films Collective, whose nominations were announced this last Wednesday. As this anticipated moment comes to completion through the work of the whole team, let’s take a look at the highlights of ARFF International 2020.

The United Kingdom did not miss this incredible opportunity to shine through its independent cinema, presenting quality material which stood out among the finalists, gaining attention and winning several of the categories. Among these, End Point from director Rafael Cortes was entirely produced and shot in the UK. A short film, set in a futuristic world where humans and AIs are intertwined in the same society, in which a young man is stuck between a time loop and a star-crossed love.

On a completely different note there is Appetite, from directors Xuemeng Li and Katrin Larissa Kasper. Funny and intriguing, the short film tells the story of a serial dine-and-dasher, a mysterious woman who wears intricate disguises, orders every element on the menu, and takes off hoping that no one will ever find out her secret.

Last, but definitely not ending the impressive presence of English independent films at ARFF International, among the finalists, two British filmmakers participated in the entertaining Q&A evenings. On the big screen but also on the small, participating in the interviews from their homes were Howard Perry, presenting Skye Steele – Rise of Nefertiti, a mystery-drama set in the 1930’s, and Monika Koeck with M’Hamid Oasis Morocco, a documentary about the intervention to restore the endangered Moroccan oasis.

The festival overall presented thousands of film submissions and an incredibly wide range of genres and formats, for everyone’s taste: from feature films to shorts, documentaries to music videos, from student films to experimental creations. Filmmakers of any background and experience were welcome, from all over the world, and of any age as well, 18-72. The festival’s staff picks and the exclusive mentions, as well as the signature Globe Award, really value exceptional talent that could come from anywhere, and were assigned to filmmakers (and films) who really outdid themselves. The already mentioned Q&As, featuring moderators Henriett Tunyogi and Bastiaan Rook, were a success among audience and filmmakers, and brought to great moments of participation and exchange between artists sharing the same love for cinema.

A small regression on the festival’s structure brings out its truly unique approach. Due to its four-in-one composition, the platform has a lot going on and it may seem confusing at first, but the structure is actually quite simple. The festival accepts film submissions year round, and every month presents its set of winners. Aside from this, the jury selects what are considered the “Best Of The Best”, truly outstanding filmmakers who get to shine on at one of the four mentioned yearly events in either Spain, France, Netherlands or Germany. So it is always a good time to jump on this festival, since even if a fest just wrapped up, one is just Around the corner, for an engagement that lasts all year.

The event promoted community building and networking, and allowed a true appreciation of amazing content. But who got to decide what really classified as the “best of the best”? This year’s A-list jury was composed of talented professionals from all over the world: Katherine Castro, Harley Wallen, Sonalii Castillo, Michael B. Katz, Libby Munro, Billie Rae Bigsby, Iliona Blanc, Summa Cilem, Federico Alotto, Andrea Zirio and Yuri + Ana. Full biographies are available on the festival’s official blog, Fest Regards.

The winners come from any corner of the world, from Norway to Japan, from Israel to New Zealand. The variety among the winners shows there is not only one way to make a winning piece, since each one made first-class films their own original way. From all of the Around Films Staff, our congratulations go to the winners of the 2020 editions. Here are the winning films:

For ARFF International Barcelona:

  • BEST FEATURE FILM Father For A Day - The story of an artist who suddenly finds out he’s a father, through his difficult relationships with his father and his wife.

  • BEST DIRECTOR End Point - A cursed love story in a future in which humans and their AIs can travel through time.

  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Shibil - This is a story of impossible love, seen through the eyes of an unexpected character - the incarnated soul of the main character - his horse.

  • BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM The Happy Accident - A documentary about a filmmaker who finds her way thanks to an eccentric septuagenarian artist.

  • BEST SHORT FILM Lovers - A reconstruction of Romeo and Juliette through different generations, ages, ethnicities. The goal? Show that love is really timeless and universal.

  • BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM ENOXAIAR - In this oniric journey, a woman must learn to free herself through self love and empowerment. It makes us wonder why something like loving ourselves seems to be so hard to achieve.

  • BEST MUSIC VIDEO Phoet - Symmetry Breaking - The immigration crisis Italy is living, depicted in all of its tragedy, with the hope for a better future.

  • BEST STUDENT FILM Happy Ending - A series of thoughts about human communication and interaction spark inside a man’s mind after receiving a notification on his phone. A commentary on how what we consider “inappropriate” limits our relationships with each other.

  • BEST ANIMATED FILM Aripi - In order to solve his problems, an astronaut must look back to the child who still lives inside him.

  • GLOBE AWARD Wormhole - A sci-fi journey through the mind of a woman who has discovered her husband’s betrayal. Reality and fiction continuously switch places and blur their edges as she writes a novel.

  • AUDIENCE AWARD BoyMom - The story of a mom of two who struggles with mental health. A film which brings awareness to the amount of responsibilities mothers have to deal with, mostly alone.

  • STAFF PICK Cold Cuts - When the family dog dies, Pancho - the only child - tries to arrange a proper burial, only to realise that all his efforts won't make anyone happy, but his mother.

For ARFF International Paris:

  • BEST FEATURE FILM Horatio - A satiric and fantastical commentary on the materialistic society we live in, told through the lens of a dysfunctional family led by the tyrannical Horatio.

  • BEST DIRECTOR Miss Chazelles - An unexpected plot in the framing of a society which constantly turns women against one another.

  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Return To Sender - A postman starts to follow a series of mysterious letters, in this sweet short film set in the American desert.

  • BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM The Last Oil - Through three parallel stories, this film presents a reflection on how and why oil has become so important for our economies and modern lifestyles, but also why continuing to use oil as much as we do may jeopardise all of that: it harms our environment and climate.

  • BEST SHORT FILM Mantis - An intriguing story involving a serial killer who targets men in Los Angeles.

  • BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM Incredible Machine GlassBody - A reflection upon the role technology has in our lives and its attempt to dehumanize society.

  • BEST MUSIC VIDEO Laisse Lucifer - Women really steal the show in this pink-tinted video for the song by Faire.

  • BEST STUDENT FILM Fata Morgana - Kiev, 2014. A young couple struggles to find closure on their last day together before the man goes to war. A dry depiction of the destruction war brings not only in the battlefield, but also in human relationships.

  • BEST ANIMATED FILM Hesar (Gate) - This animation music video for the song Hesar in the debut album by Farnaz Ohadi's Persian Flamenco shows the painful journey of a woman from Iran to Canada. It shows the pain of immigration, but also the courage and strength needed to set roots in a new country and start again from scratch.

  • GLOBE AWARD Born Balearic: Jon Sa Trinxa and the Spirit of Ibiza - Adjacent to Ibiza’s party capital, a documentary about DJ Jon Sa Trinxa, who has spent a quarter of a century on the beach spinning an eclectic mix of musical styles that stir the hearts of the Balearic artist community.

  • AUDIENCE AWARD Ô - A desperate cry for help in a commentary on the world we live in, depicting the insecurity which lies in today’s young minds.

  • STAFF PICK Diary of a beginner - The compelling story of a young woman who discovers herself in a potential career as a porn actress.

For ARFF International Amsterdam:

  • BEST FEATURE FILM Alice and the Land that Wonders - A reasoning on the concept of normality, through the mirror of magical realism, inspired by the famous character of Alice, a young woman who is not ready to grow up.

  • BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY The Last Tribes - A documentary which focuses on San tribes' ingenous daily life with all their excitement, fears and happiness in their natural habitat. One of the very few peoples today who are still able to live in communion with nature, without feeling the need for destruction.

  • BEST DIRECTOR VORTEX - A desperate killer leaves the city behind and meets, on his way, a mysterious witch who’s connected to nature. Thus begins a strange organic relationship, between life and death.

  • BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY Voiceless - The incredible journey of two film students to South Africa, to work with an organization that aims at overcoming prejudice towards disabilities.

  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY The Macro World - A reality more colorful and surreal than any movie we can think of is brought to us through this magnifying lens on the underwater world.

  • BEST SHORT FILM Rag Doll - In a nearly dystopian Los Angeles, a young woman feels lost and reflects on the authenticity of her own life. A deep story that questions the lives we live and the fame we worship.

  • BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM On My Mind - An abstract, Afro-cosmic reflection on love is performed - both in music and in dance - by a group of artists in the Bronx, to call us back to a wisdom which existed way before we did.

  • BEST STUDENT FILM Fishbowl - An unsettling short film about an artist who is mistaken as cheating on her boyfriend, only to realize a truth which is hard to swallow.

  • GLOBE AWARD Talk For Life: English as an Additional Language - This inspiring and heartwarming documentary film takes us on a journey into the world of language and the crucial role it plays in the lives of newly arrived refugees in Australia.

  • AUDIENCE AWARD Other - A documentary about gender, kindness, equality and humanity. Being one’s true self is an act that must be understood and appreciated by everyone in order to build a better world for future generations.

  • STAFF PICK Wives Of The Skies - A funny and bizarre comedy about a filmmaker in 1965 who decides to make a documentary about two stewardesses. A witty commentary about the sexualizing gaze of men towards women.

For ARFF International Berlin:

  • BEST FEATURE FILM Windows, Windows - A poetic story, set in an abstract background, telling a universal tale of yearnings, hounding memories and quest for love.

  • BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY BEAR-LIKE - Bears are the true protagonists of this documentary, in which two adventurists get to live their dream of knowing from up close these fascinating creatures.

  • BEST DIRECTOR Appetite - An intriguing short film about a mysterious woman who goes on several dates under many disguises, orders the whole menu, and insists on paying.

  • BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY ROLLER GIRLS BEIRUT - A documentary about a woman who spends six months in Lebanon to start a female roller skating team. A reflection on what it means to be a woman and why it’s wrong for society to decide what is “feminine”.

  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Paul Keller - Stille im Schrei - Can we trust a story without trusting its protagonist? This uncontrollable feature reflects on the effects of destruction on the sanity of post-war Germany.

  • BEST SHORT FILM SIGNS - Two disillusioned sign-spinners create a friendship, and maybe more, in a very unusual meet-cute in alienating Los Angeles.

  • EQUILIBRIST (Bauhaus Edition) - Art takes life in this dialogue with the lithograph “Der Seiltänzer” by Paul Klee, a teacher at Bauhaus who was fascinated by the concept of balance.

  • BEST STUDENT FILM The West Kerry Cowboy - A comedy drama about a young man with a secret who struggles in the search for acceptance from his own father, after his mother dies.

  • GLOBE AWARD Beer-tastic! The Series - The eccentric sommelier and author Conrad Seidl sets out on a tasty journey around the globe to discover famous beer styles and experience new flavors.

  • AUDIENCE AWARD Him and Her - A story about love and hate, adoration and loathe, in a marriage between a singer and her producer.

  • STAFF PICK We are all on the same bus - A reflexion on the elasticity of time and the multitude of universes in an urban setting which invites us to practice awareness.

Around International Film Awards would also like to thank all the precious collaborators from Fest Regards and the Astrall Story Filmmakers via IMDb, who are ready to finalize a one-of-a-kind Collab-Film, coming in 2021 to make a new history altogether.

Heiner Mühlenbrock - Consultant & The Awards Presenter

Margaret Duggan - Content Manager & Online Coordinator

Gaisha Madanova - Content Manager

Emre Küçükosman – P.Production Supervisor

Göksel Hizlikul - Web & IT Manager

Eda Kaymaz – Graphic & Illustration

One last thing: The event featured screenings, networking events and Q&As with the filmmakers, so the online event presented all the features of an in-person festival, also adding the fact that one could participate from any corner of the world, and enjoy the festival with friends and family from home. To discover more about the filmmakers who were involved, the Q&A sessions, and the festival winners, take a look at Fest Regards, an ARFF International Blog. Supporting independent cinema and appreciating such breathtaking films has never been more important!

As they always like to say, ''See you Around.''



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