Autumn is the ECFA Award Season!

ECFA Awards in countless festivals are part of the end-of-year tradition. This year they came in large numbers, from more than 10 festivals. There are newly nominated features, shorts and docs and one film was awarded twice… Due to the abundance of films, we keep the information short. (Photo: NINA AND THE HEDGEHOG SECRET)




NINA AND THE HEDGEHOG’S SECRET (by Alain Gagnol & Jean-Loup Felicioli, France) was awarded at the Lucas Int’l Festival for Young Film Lovers (Frankfurt). The film tells about 10 year old Nina, who loves to listen to her father’s bedtime stories about a little hedgehog. Now that the local factory is closing down, rumour has it that there is a reserve of money hidden somewhere in the building. Nina and her friend Mehdi set out together with a hedgehog to find the treasure. The ECFA Jury were Noy Levin (Israel), Ralitsa Assenova (Bulgaria) and Julia Jarl (Sweden). The same film was awarded in the Just Film Children & Youth Film Festival in Tallinn (Estonia). “A pure and honest film that combines a graceful style of animation with a story about a natural and loyal friendship between two kids. Playful elements lend the animation a refreshing tone, while the story is set against a backdrop of social injustice,” is how the film was described by the ECFA Jury Jaroslava Hynstova (Czech Republic), Josef Arbiol (Spain) and Gert Hermans (Belgium).


In the Young Horizons Film Festival in Warsaw, the ECFA Award went to SEA SPARKLE (by Domien Huyghe, Belgium), probably the most awarded young audience film in 2023, about a girl learning to mourn over her fisherman father. The ECFA Jury were Marketa Pasmova (Czech Republic), Kärt Väinola (Estonia) and Janne Vierth (Sweden).



Three new documentaries found their way into the list of nominated titles. In the DOXS Ruhr festival (Bochum & other cities) the award went to RAMBOY (by Matthias Joulaud & Lucien Roux, Switzerland), the story of an Irish teenager torn between two worlds. Under the strict guidance of his grandfather, Cian learns about traditional sheep breeding, while he dreams about a career in a big tech company. “With strong, cinematic images and a charming wink, much of the film’s story is told between the lines,” said Dimitra Kouzi (Greece), Felix Vanginderhuysen (Belgium) and Kaddi Wandaogo (Germany), aka the ECFA Jury. The ECFA Award at the doxs! festival (Duisburg) was given to ACTUALLY LITERALLY ARM IN ARM (by Natalie Fischer, Germany). “Young people are constantly confronted with expectations about their bodies, their behaviour and their relationships. In this film, we met 5 strong characters. Through sensitive and close observation we get an insight into their world that seems to be rather unspectacular. But through tenderness and openness we get an impression of extraordinary ordinariness. The filmmaker allows us to experience their special bond of friendship, which is the film’s most powerful tool,” said jury members Karolina Śmigiel (Poland), Tristan Sindelgruber (Austria) and Elisabeth Wenk (Germany). The ECFA Doc Award at the Filem’on Int’l Film Festival for Young Audiences (Brussels & Ghent) was for DRAW FOR CHANGE – WE ARE FIRE (by Karen Vazquez Guadarrama, Belgium), dealing with the issue of gender inequality in a very subtle and humane way.



The Filem’on Int’l Film Festival had two more ECFA Awards to hand out. Best Feature was ROBOT DREAMS (by Pablo Berger, Spain), about a lonesome dog who builds and befriends a robot, until he has to leave him behind one day. “This story of extraordinary friendship and love, full of emotions, is told with a great sense of humour and crafted with excellent animation.” The ECFA Short Award went to TO BE SISTERS (by Anne-Sophie Gousset & Clément Céard, France), “a heart-warming, honest portrayal of the special bond between siblings. The variety of emotions, with moments of both laughter and tears, makes it a captivating experience.” ECFA was represented in Filem’on’s many festival juries through Marko Pekic (Croatia), Jerszy Moszkowicz (Poland), Mathea Roland (Norway), Rose-Marie Strand (Sweden), Teresa Lima (Portugal), Marijn Raeven (Belgium), David Simon (France), Steffi Falk (Germany), and Hrönn Marinosdottir (Iceland).



With the finish line in sight, big names like the AleKino! festival (Poznan), where the ECFA Award went to CHICKEN FOR LINDA (by Chiara Malta & Sébastien Laudenbach, France). “In this heart-warming and fun film about reconnecting after a great loss and coping with grief, our bird-loving little rascal Linda is supported by the local community. The script and the characters are rich, and the animation style is truly unique. This is a film you can explore again and again,” stated ECFA Jury members Mariella Harpelunde Jensen (Denmark), Jagoda Mazepa (Poland) and Nils-Thomas Andersson (Sweden).



Meanwhile… at the Olympia Int’l Film Festival for Children & Young People (Pyrgos & Amaliada), JUNIORS (by Hugo Thomas, France) was taking home the award. “A serious subject is presented with a certain lightness in a film that was convincing on the level of acting, cinematography and soundtrack.” In the same festival the ECFA Short Award was handed out to POND (by Lena von Döhren & Eva Rust, Switzerland). “This film has a real impact from the first time you watch it – but then you can watch it again and again and still enjoy it. The extraordinary soundscape adds more than just one layer to the film, with every character having its own particular sound. With its humorous message of friendship, new found family and community, this film speaks to all ages.” The ECFA Doc Award went to SWIMMING WITH WINGS (by Daphna Awadish Golan, the Netherlands) for “creating a playful, vivid animation, using a fairy-tale-like metaphor to beautifully narrate the experiences of migration.”

ECFA was represented in all juries in Olympia through multiple members: Martina Lassacher (Austria), Philipp Aubel (Germany), Marjo Kovanen (Finland), Felix Vanginderhuysen (Belgium), Rosa Ferro (Italy), Eva Maria Schneider-Reuter (Germany), Lina Paulsen (Germany), Mike Tait (Scotland) and Hrvoje Seleca (Croatia).



In the 14th AniFestROZAFA festival in Shoder (Albania) the jury was unanimous to hand out the ECFA Award to MY TOY (by Mazen Haj Kassem, Denmark), empathetically portraying the devastating effects of state adoption: Sarah and Salem are entrusted to social services. During a meeting with their parents, the kids start fighting over a toy. But what is the real reason behind this sudden quarrel? In the Jury were Amila Gjyrezi, Burim Halili, Diomen Boriçi, Ergys Faja and Enejda Xhelili from Albania. Furthermore there were ECFA Awards for TOTEM (by Sander Burger, the Netherlands) and the short film DON’T BLOW IT UP (by Alzbeta Macakova Misejkova, Czech Republic) in the Oulu Int’l Children’s & Youth Film Festival, for KIDDO (by Zara Dwinger, the Netherlands) in the Castellinaria Festival in Bellinzona (Switzerland), and for TONY, SHELLY AND THE MAGIC LIGHT (Filip Posivac, Czech Republic) and the short PRINCESS AUBERGINE (by Dina Velikovskaya, Germany) in the Athens Int’l Children’s Film Festival.