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In the Stefan Jarl International Documentary Award, eight films are competing in the category Best International feature-length Documentary. The winning director will receive a prize of 3000 euros with the support of the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation. The winner will be crowned at the festival’s closing gala on March 9.

Last year’s winner was Theo Montoya’s experimental hybrid documentary Anhell69. Among previous years’ winners are gems like Mr Gaga by Tomer Heymann and La Mami by Laura Herrero Garvín. Cecilia Björk, the editor of Tempo’s international program, emphasizes that this year’s selection builds on a tradition of highlighting visually compelling films with a unique voice.

This year, eight unique documentaries are competing, tackling burning issues and exploring new ways of filmmaking. From a four-hour film in an exclusive French restaurant to folk traditions in Brazil and a woman’s quest to define her own life conditions in China. We get to witness life, death, and documentary experiments. Above all, we get to experience incredible documentaries from some of the most interesting filmmakers right now.

The entire program for the Tempo Documentary Festival will be released on February 14th. Below, you can read about all the films competing in the category Stefan Jarl International Documentary Award.

Bye Bye Tiberias
Director: Lina Soualem

An intimate documentary about Succession actor Hiam Abbass and four generations of Palestinian women. As a young woman, Abbass left Palestine to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. Now, she returns with her daughter, director Lina Soualem, in this tender documentary about exile, family, difficult choices, and resilience. Set against the backdrop of the 1948 war when they were displaced from their village, Soualem weaves together a story of determination and love using personal footage and old family films, spanning generations and territories.

Canuto’s Transformation
Director: Ariel Kuaray Ortega and Ernesto de Carvalho

When director Ariel Kuaray Ortega returns to his village, he is told about the mysterious story of Canuto, a villager who transformed into a jaguar and met a tragic end. He decides to make a film about Canuto while engaging the villagers in the roles. This hybrid documentary covers various topics: the consequences of colonization, the status of indigenous people in Brazil, and the legend of “jepotá” – when a person transforms into an animal. What is truth, what is fiction, and what is folklore? And does the differences between them actually matter?

Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros
Director: Frederick Wiseman

Amidst green hills and grazing cows in the French region of Ouches, the Troisgros family runs their Michelin-starred restaurant. Here, exquisite food is prepared in harmony with nature, respecting both ingredients and farmers – all with the aim of providing restaurant-goers an extraordinary experience. It is a visual and sensory delight to be in Wiseman’s and the Troisgros family’s company, where the atmosphere resembles more an elegant spa than the kitchen in The Bear. The film is four hours of constant entertainment that will make you hungry!

My Worst Enemy
Director: Mehran Tamadon

Director Mehran Tamadon invites exiled Iranians Mojtaba, Amzeh, and Zar to a role-playing experiment. All of them have experienced imprisonment and brutal interrogations. Would any of them be willing to participate in an experiment where they act as interrogators for the Islamic Republic? Driven by the hope that such a dialogue can break through the fabricated but fundamentally ideological wall between them, they embark on a role-play, which also becomes a process of trauma processing.

The film is presented in collaboration with Salam Cinema.

Pure Unknown
Director: Mattia Colombo

What happens if you die, and no one knows who you are? Currently, no country takes responsibility for identifying the drowned bodies that, in the thousands, wash up on the shores of the Mediterranean or are recovered from wrecked boats. However, Italian forensic scientist Cristina Cattaneo tirelessly works towards her goal: to identify “Pure Unknowns” – migrants, homeless individuals, and sex workers – and thus, honor a fundamental human right. It is about respect for human dignity and for the surviving loved ones. The film follows Cattaneo in her efforts to advocate for pan-European legislation that gives the unidentified dead the right to their name. A factual, disturbing, and beautiful portrayal of a forgotten issue.

Red Herring
Directors: Kit Vincent

What do you do when you find out you have a short time left to live? When a young filmmaker receives a severe cancer diagnosis, he starts a film project. What was supposed to be a film about the director’s father grieving the loss of his son soon grows into a reckoning with their entire family history. It becomes a darkly humorous exploration of finding hope in the toughest of times. Red Herring – an English expression denoting something that distracts from the real problem – is an affirming film about death, or perhaps about life, that does not shy away from discussing that it all comes to an end someday. An unexpectedly uplifting film about grief and reconciliation.

This Woman
Director: Alan Zhang

‘A completely okay wife, but a bad mother.’ That is how protagonist Beibei describes herself. Beibei wants to be free. She wants to live her life without limitations and wishes the same for her daughter. By independently moving from city to city, investing in real estate, and having various lovers, she defies the expectations of Chinese society about how a woman should be and live. With stunningly beautiful cinematography, the film explores the question of the dual nature of norms – can gender roles also be liberating? Zhang’s debut film provides an intimate insight into a woman’s life in a changing China.

Light Falls Vertical
Director: Efthymia Zymvragaki

What is it like to be the perpetrator in a destructive relationship? Ernesto knows and wants to share his story. Alongside director, Ernesto explores why he has become a violent man. Through enactments, he attempts to articulate acts of abuse and trauma. As the pieces fall into place for Ernesto, Efthymia’s own story becomes increasingly challenging to ignore, and they both ask the question – is it possible to break the cycle of violence built up over several generations?

Light Falls Vertical was nominated for the European Film Award 2023.

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