Laura Mora's extraordinarily moving Colombian drama "Killing Jesús" won the Roger Ebert Award last Friday at the 2017 Chicago International Film Festival. Beyond its thrilling cinematography and exceptional cast of non-actors, this film contained the richest, most deeply moving example that the New Directors jury saw of a quality Ebert treasured in cinema. He once wrote, “If you can’t try to understand how the other person feels, you’re a captive inside the box of yourself.” Mora’s lead heroine tracks down her father’s killer initially in pursuit of vengeance, until she realizes that his crime was merely a symptom of a corrupted society. The film is wise and perceptive in its suggestion that empathy itself can serve as a form of catharsis.
Argentinian director Diego Lerman’s "A Sort of Family," took home the festival's top prize, the Gold Hugo, in the International Feature Film Competition, while the Silver Hugo for Best Director went to Polish directors Joanna Kos-Krause and her late husband/co-director Krzysztof Krauze for "Birds Are Singing in Kigali." The Silver Hugo Special Jury Prize went to Alain Gomis' Senegalese-French-Belgian co-production, "Félicité." The other awards in the New Directors Competition, the Gold Hugo and Silver Hugo, were awarded respectively to Iranian director Vahid Jalilvand's "No Date, No Signature" and Milad Alami's Danish thriller, "The Charmer." Stephen Cone earned the Chicago Award for his self-professed love letter to the Windy City, "Princess Cyd," while the Founder’s Award, selected by CIFF founder Michael Kutza, was given to the festival's closing night selection, "The Shape of Water," directed by Guillermo del Toro.
Below is the full list of winners...
International Feature Film Competition
"A Sort of Family" ("Una especie de familia"), Dir. Diego Lerman, Argentina.
"Birds Are Singing in Kigali" ("Ptaki śpiewają w Kigali"), Dirs. Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze, Poland.
Silver Hugo Jury Prize
"Félicité," Dir. Alain Gomis, Senegal, France, Belgium.
Silver Hugo Best Actress
Awarded ex-aequo to Jowita Budnik and Eliane Umuhire in "Birds are Singing in Kigali" ("Ptaki śpiewają w Kigali"), Dirs. Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze, Poland.
Silver Hugo Best Actor
Awarded to Aleksandr Yatsenko in "Arrhythmia," Dir. Boris Khlebnikov, Russia, Finland, Germany
Silver Plaque Best Screenplay
Awarded to Mohammad Rasoulof for "A Man of Integrity" ("Lerd"), Dir. Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran.
Silver Plaque Best Cinematography
Awarded to Chayse Irvin for "Hannah," Dir. Andreas Pallaoro, Italy, France, Belgium.
Best Art Direction
Awarded to Václav Novak for "The Line" ("Čiara"), Dir. Peter Bebjak, Slovakia, Ukraine, Czech Republic.
"The Shape of Water," Dir. Guillermo Del Toro, USA
New Directors Competition
"No Date, No Signature" ("Bedoune Tarikh, Bedoune Emza"). Dir. Vahid Jalilvand, Iran.
"The Charmer" ("Charmøren"), Dir. Milad Alami, Denmark.
Roger Ebert Award
"Killing Jesús" ("Matar a Jesús"), Dir. Laura Mora, Colombia, Argentina.
"The Other Side of the Wall" ("Al otro lado del murk"), Dir. Pau Ortiz, Spain, Mexico.
"Mr. Gay Syria," Dir. Ayse Toprak, France, Germany, Turkey.
"BPM" ("120 battements par minute"), Dir. Robin Campillo, France.
"God’s Own Country," Dir. Francis Lee, United Kingdom.
"Princess Cyd," Dir. Stephen Cone, USA.
Documentary Short Film Competition
"The Rabbit Hunt," Dir. Patrick Bresnan, USA.
"The Streets Are Ours: Two Lives Cross in Karachi," Dir. Michelle Fiordaliso, USA.
"The Painted Calf," Dir. David Pantaleón, Spain.
Animated Short Film Competition
"Airport," Dir. Michaela Müller, Switzerland, Croatia.
"Drop by Drop," Dirs. Xá, Laura Gonçalves, Portugal.
"Beyond Fields of Paper," Dir. Yiyi Ma, USA
Narrative Short Film Competition
"Night Shift," Dir. Marshall Tyler, USA.
"A Gentle Night," Dir. Qui Yang, China.
"Fucking Bunnies," Dir. Teemu Niukkanen, Finland.
The Roger Ebert Award winner was selected by a jury that included myself along with Fabrice Rozié, the Cultural Attaché at the Consulate of France in Chicago; Andreas Ströhl, director and commercial manager of the International Munich Film Festival; Ella Taylor, professor of cinema at USC and film writer for NPR.org; and Wenhwa Ts’ao, professor and associate chair of the department of cinema and television arts at Columbia College Chicago.