Andréa Bescond and Eric Métayer’s wrenching French drama “Little Tickles” won the Roger Ebert Award during last week’s closing festivities for the 2018 Chicago International Film Festival.
In a work of incredible boldness, Bescond and Métayer (co-directors and co-screenwriters, adapting from Bescond’s autobiographical stage play) use dance as a vehicle for exploring the memories and unspeakable childhood trauma of its protagonist, Odette (played by Bescond, who is also the film’s choreographer). Watching Odette hurl her body through space, through time, and in and out of memories both real and imagined is a visceral, striking experience, but it’s the film’s palpable openness that most struck the members of the New Directors jury as something Ebert would cherish. “Movies are the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts,” he once said. “When I go to a great movie I can live somebody else's life for a while.” Living Odette’s life is a painful experience, but watching “Little Tickles” gives one the sense of having served as a witness for someone who needs desperately to be seen, and even of having walked alongside her as she walked through fire. You may come out of it singed a bit, and the better for it.
Italian director Alice Rohrwacher’s film “Happy as Lazzaro” was awarded the Gold Hugo, the festival’s top prize, in the International Feature Film Competition, one of several female filmmakers (including Bescond) to take home honors. The Silver Hugo for Best Director was given to Jia Zhangke, the Chinese director of the Chinese/French co-production “Ash Is Purest White,” which also earned Best Actress honors for Zhao Tao. “Joy,” from director Sudabeh Mortezai of Austria, took home the Silver Hugo Special Jury Prize.
The Gold and Silver Hugo, the other awards in the New Directors competition, were awarded respectively to Ash Mayfair’s “The Third Wife” (Vietnam) and Rwandese director Joël Karekezi’s “The Mercy of the Jungle” (Belgium/France/Rwanda), two films not lacking in empathy themselves. The Chicago Award went to director Michael Paulucci’s “Hashtag Perfect Life,” the Gold Hugo in the documentary competition was awarded to Sari Braithwaite’s “[Censored]” (Australia), and the Founder’s Award, selected by CIFF founder Michael Kutza, was given to the festival's opening night selection, "Beautiful Boy," directed by Felix van Groeningen.
Below is the full list of winners …
International Feature Film Competition
Gold Hugo: Best Film
"Happy as Lazzaro" ("Lazzaro felice"), Dir. Alice Rohrwacher, Italy/Switzerland/France/Germany.
Silver Hugo: Best Director
"Ash is Purest White" ("Jiang hu er nv"), Dir. Jia Zhangke, China/France.
Silver Hugo Jury Prize
"Joy," Dir. Sudabeh Mortezai, Austria.
Silver Hugo Best Actress
Awarded to Zhao Tao in "Ash is Purest White" ("Jiang hu er nv"), Dir. Jia Zhangke, China/France.
Best Art Direction
Awarded to Angélica Parea for "Birds of Passage" (“Pájaros de verano”), Dirs. Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, Colombia, Mexico, Denmark, France.
"Beautiful Boy," Dir. Felix van Groeningen, USA
New Directors Competition
"The Third Wife," Dir. Ash Mayfair, Vietnam.
“The Mercy of the Jungle,” Dir. Joël Karekezi, Belgium/France/Rwanda.
Roger Ebert Award
"Little Tickles" ("Les chatouilles"), Dirs. Andréa Bescond, Eric Métayer, France.
"[Censored]," Dir. Sari Braithwaite, Australia.
“Ex-Shaman" (“Ex-Pajé”), Dir. Luiz Bolognesi, Brazil.
“The Raft" (“Flotten”), Dir. Marcus Lindeen, Sweden.
"Retablo," Dir. Alvaro Delgado Aparicio, Peru, Germany, Norway.
"Rafiki," Dir. Wanuri Kahiu, Kenya/South Africa/Germany/Netherlands/France/Norway/Lebanon.
“Hard Paint,” Dirs. Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon, Brazil.
"Hashtag Perfect Life," Dir. Michael Paulucci, USA.
Documentary Short Film Competition
"Circle," Dir. Jayisha Patel, U.K./Canada/India.
"Edgecombe," Dir. Crystal Kayiza, USA.
"Black 14," Dir. Darius Clark Monroe, USA.
Animated Short Film Competition
"Bloeistraat 11," Dir. Nienke Deutz, The Netherlands.
"Weekends" Dir. Trevor Jimenez, USA.
"Opening Night," Dir. Margaret Bialis, USA
Live Action Short Film Competition
"Mamartuille," Dir. Alejandro Saevich, Mexico.
"Hair Wolf," Dir. Mariama Diallo, USA.
"Nyi ma lay," Dir. Wei Liang Chiang, Singapore.
The Roger Ebert Award winner was selected by a jury that included myself along with Amy Beste, the Director of Public Programs for Film, Video, New Media & Animation; Art & Technology; and Sound and Senior Lecturer in Art History, Theory, & Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and Pemon Rami, an award-winning producer and director who also was the first African-American film casting director in Chicago.