ECFA Awards 2021 for Best European Children’s Films

ECFA has announced the results of their annual ECFA Awards. In an award ceremony, streamed live from the Zlin Film Festival studio, prizes were handed out to MARONA, FORWARD: TOMORROW BELONGS TO US, and MATILDA AND THE SPARE HEAD. All winning directors were present to collect their awards.



The ECFA Award for Best European Children’s Film went to MARONA by director Anca Damian (France / Romania), an animated film about an adorable street dog, reflecting on her life in her final moments. Anca Damian: “It might be unusual to start a film with the death of the main character already in the first five minutes. But this dog – inspired by a real dog that I adopted in 2014 – is teaching us a lesson in love and empathy. This film gives an important message about happiness. The process of looking around us is the first step towards a real change.


The ECFA Doc Award 2021 for Best Young Audience Documentary of the year went to FORWARD: TOMORROW BELONGS TO US (aka Demain est à nous) by director Gilles de Maistre (France). This film gives a voice to children from Peru to India, from France to Guinea, who fight locally against poverty, social inequalities and climate change. Gilles de Maistre: “Children don’t want to rule the world, but they want to participate in it. It’s not about thinking big, but it’s about taking action. Everybody can do it. What these children create is a worldwide wave, and it’s growing everywhere.”


The ECFA Short Award for Best European Young Audience Short Film of the year went to MATILDA AND THE SPARE HEAD by director Ignas Milunas (Lithuania), telling the story of a girl who wants to be the smartest person in the world. When all the things she learned no longer fit into one head, her mother buys her a spare one. Ignas Milunas: “This is a story about parents’ ambitions, putting pressure upon children. Luckily my parents were not as ‘hardcore’ as Matilda’s, but they saw the world differently from how I did, and my children again see things differently. It was my aim to search for similarities among generations, and not to emphasize who was right and who wasn’t.”


Margret Albers, President of ECFA: “The result of the voting represents an astonishing variety of forms, styles and approaches. Look at the three award winning titles: one speaks of life, death, happiness and farewell; one represents an activist approach with children addressing the world’s burning social and environmental issues; and one tells about the pressure that children experience in their everyday lives, a topic that was all too relevant in 2020. All these films have the courage to embrace some darker aspects of young people’s lives, often with a light-hearted and colourful approach. The list of nominated films is yet another proof of the richness of the European children’s film landscape.


ECFA’s yearly award ceremony during the Berlinale had been postponed, for  obvious reasons. The event was now held online, streamed live from the Zlin Film Festival studio. The ‘spring part’ of the Zlin Film Festival (Czech Republic) is currently taking place; the ‘autumn part’ has been planned from September 9 to 15.


The ECFA Award is the only European children’s film award voted on by professionals, namely the members of ECFA!

The 18 festivals that participated in this year’s ECFA Awards were JEF Festival (Antwerp & Bruges, Belgium), BUFF Children & Youth Film Festival (Malmö, Sweden), Film Festival for Children & Youth (Zlin, Czech Republic), Children’s & Youth Film Festival (Oulu, Finland), Just Film Children & Youth Film Festival (Tallinn, Estonia), Schlingel Film Festival for Children & Young Audience (Chemnitz, Germany), Lucas Festival for Young Filmlovers (Frankfurt, Germany), Ale Kino! Young Audience Film Festival (Poznan, Poland), Olympia Children’s Film Festival (Pyrgos, Greece), Filem’on Children’s Film Festival (Brussels, Belgium), doxs! – Documentaries for Children & Young People (Duisburg, Germany), Kino Dzieci Kids Film Festival (Warsaw, Poland), Short Film Festival (Oberhausen, Germany), Biennial of Animation (Bratislava, Slovakia), International Festival of Cinematographic Debuts ‘Spirits of Fire’ (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia), FIFEM (Montreal, Canada), Cinemira International Children’s Film Festival (Budapest, Hungary), International Women’s Film Festival (Dortmund & Cologne, Germany).