Sweat directed by Magnus von Horn
Sweat directed by Magnus von Horn

The Polish film Sweat directed by Magnus von Horn won the Gold Hugo for Best International Feature Film at the 56th Chicago International Film Festival. The film also won the Silver Hugo for Best Art Direction for Jagna Dobesz. The insightful drama about loneliness and insecurity in the digital age chronicles three days in the candy-colored life of social media celebrity Sylwia Zajac played by stage actress Magdalena Kolésnik.

In the New Directors Competition, the jury awarded the Gold Hugo to the Hungarian film Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time (Felkészülés meghatározatlan ideig tartó együttlétre) directed by Lili Horvat, for “.. its captivating and engaging love story that immerses us into the minds of two neurosurgeons and its dissection of the thin lines between romantic feelings, obsession and madness.”

Things We Dare Not Do (Cosas que no hacemos) by director and cinematographer Bruno Santamaría won the Gold Hugo in both the International Documentary Competition and Out-Look Competition. In the gorgeously photographed snapshot of rural Mexico, the film tells a compassionate story of queer adolescence, bringing us into the life of a 16-year-old who wishes to dress as a woman.

56th Chicago International Film Festival Award Winners

International Feature Film Competition

Gold Hugo

Dir. Magnus von Horn | Poland, Sweden

The jury awards the Gold Hugo to Sweat for its formidable filmmaking. The storytelling is skillful, subtle, full of nuance, and buttressed by powerful performances across the board. The directorial vision is exciting and coherent, with breathtaking framing and compositional choices that work beautifully together with its art direction, creating a cinematic world that is focused and compelling.

Silver Hugo: Jury Prize

Careless Crime (Jenayat-e bi deghat)
Dir. Shahram Mokri | Iran

Inspired by the true incident of the burning of a movie theater in Abadan, on the eve of the Iranian Revolution, the film articulates the past and the present in a film within a film, creating a displacing labyrinth, equally complex and fascinating. In this ambitious and provocative piece, cinema proves to be the magic that can save us from a tragic fate.

Silver Hugo: Best Director

Dear Comrades! (Dorogie Tovarischi!)
Dir. Andrei Konchalovsky | Russia

Andrei Konchalovsky is a master storyteller and proves this once again in Dear Comrades! His precisely staged Soviet-era drama, in bleak black-and-white, tells both a socio-politically specific story from that time as well as a universally resonant tale of a distraught mother whose political, familial and moral allegiances become opposed to one another after a traumatic event.

Silver Hugo: Best Performance

Yakusho Koji
Under the Open Sky (Subarashiki Sekai)
Dir. Miwa Nishikawa | Japan

Yakusho Koji, skilfully and yet organically, brings to his character depth and a true range of emotions that allow us to journey with him as he struggles to gain a certain normal life in an apparently not easily forgiving society, solidly building the whole movie on his strong performance.

Silver Hugo: Best Ensemble Performance

Mala Emde, Noah Saavedra, Tonio Schneider, Luisa-Céline Gaffron, and Andreas Lust
And Tomorrow the Entire World (Und morgen die ganze Welt)
Dir. Julia von Heinz | Germany

This strong ensemble of performances is grounded in emotional depth and contributes greatly to the power and resonance of the film.

Silver Hugo: Best Cinematography

Tobie Marier Robitaille
Night of the Kings (La nuit des rois)
Dir. Philippe Lacôte | Côte d’Ivoire, France, Canada, Senegal

By contrasting the flickering ochre light of oil lamps inside a dark prison with the brightness of its sun-scorched exteriors, the cinematography of Night of the Kings contributes greatly to creating a vividly drawn world in which fact and fiction might seem opposed but gradually seep into one another as the act of telling of a story becomes even more transfixing than the story itself.

Silver Hugo: Best Screenplay

Christos Nikou, Stavros Raptis
Apples (Mila)
Dir. Christos Nikou | Greece

The screenplay of Apples, delicately constructed and sketched with impressive economy, manages to create a world with its own, odd rules, even as the element that breathes life into this world is the fact it so clearly parallels our own experiences and understanding of the world we live in. The main character’s gradual coming into his own, as he navigates between a past and future unknown, is beautifully modulated, gradually blossoming from an anonymous avatar into a fully fleshed out human being.

Silver Hugo: Best Sound

Pierre-Jules Audet, Emmanuel Croset
Night of the Kings (La nuit des rois)
Dir. Philippe Lacôte | Côte d’Ivoire, France, Canada, Senegal

The particularly rich sound work in Night of the Kings lends the film an almost Shakespearean grandeur, extending the factual and fictional worlds of the movie far beyond what’s visible on screen at any one time.

Silver Hugo: Best Art Direction

Jagna Dobesz
Dir. Magnus von Horn | Poland, Sweden

From shopping malls and Sylwia’s glass-box apartment to her mother’s birthday party, the pitch perfect locations and detailed set dressing choices in Sweat help to vividly define the world of the film and its characters’ lives.

New Directors Competition

Gold Hugo

Lili Horvat
Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time (Felkészülés meghatározatlan ideig tartó együttlétre)

For its captivating and engaging love story that immerses us into the minds of two neurosurgeons and its dissection of the thin lines between romantic feelings, obsession and madness. For its heartfelt portrait of a woman, carried out by a fascinating actress, and her attempt to find her place in a city that she had left, a chauvinistic hospital that needs her, and a man she’s not able to read. For its deep colors, exquisite framings, and timeless look that are enhanced by the use of 35mm film.

Silver Hugo

Ignacio Márquez
The Special (Especial)
Venezuela, United States

Because of its highly atmospheric and multisensonal cinematic universe, immersing us in the world on the quest for understanding the development of a unique relationship between a father and a son. This coming of age movie not only deals with confidence and a sense of humor the difficult issues of disability, trauma and acceptance, but also has a soundscape filled with brilliant latin jazz tracks that set a tone of masterful performances.

Roger Ebert Award

João Paulo Miranda Maria
Memory House (Casa de Antiguidades)
Brazil, France

A timely, challenging reflection on isolation and racism bringing ancestral spirits and allowing them to enter into the present as last guardians for the sanity of the indigenous people. A daring debut that pictures a collapsing world as if in a bizzare shamanic trance with its dream sequences and hallucinogenic visions guiding us into the deep powerful realm of archetypes and myths.

International Documentary Competition

Gold Hugo

Things We Dare Not Do (Cosas que no hacemos)
Dir. Bruno Santamaría | Mexico

The Gold Hugo goes to Things We Dare Not Do by director and cinematographer Bruno Santamaría. What begins as a free-floating portrait of youth in a village on the Pacific coast of Mexico grows into a compassionate story of queer adolescence, as Things We Dare Not Do brings us into the life of a 16-year-old who wishes to dress as a woman. Her bravery inspires Santamaría’s intrepid yet tender camerawork, which sheds warm light on everyday life in a close-knit, complex, and sometimes violent community. Focusing on small stories in a specific place, this film imparts a deep sense of what it means to grow up in Mexico – and everywhere.

Silver Hugo

Little Girl (Petite Fille)
Dir. Sébastien Lifshitz | France

The Silver Hugo goes to Little Girl by Sebastien Lifshitz, which follows one loving family’s efforts to support an eight-year-old daughter confronting gender dysphoria. A film of grace and empathy, Lifshitz wisely focuses on scenes of joy, but doesn’t ignore the hardships faced by transgender youth in an uncomprehending world.

Out-Look Competition

Gold Q-Hugo

Things We Dare Not Do (Cosas que no hacemos)
Dir. Bruno Santamaría | Mexico

A Latín American portrait of the complexity between guilt and freedom. A unique cinematic jewel of devastating intimacy that resists definitions of genre while offering profound access, intimate authorship, and relationship building through a nuanced portrait which resists easy narrative conclusions. It is an exceptionally close and fearless take on a life of contrasts, courage and radical hope that inspire us to take up our cameras and share our own narratives.

Silver Hugo

Days (Rizi)
Dir. Tsai Ming-Liang | Taiwan

An original poem of loneliness and the need for human connection, portrayed with the utmost respect for the characters and the cinematic medium, made even more profound by the current times we are living through. This film offers the audience moments of self reflection and introspection in the way only great cinema can — through stunning framing, ambitious storytelling, cinematic intimacy that results in new capacities for thinking about queer cinema.

City & State Competition

Chicago Award

Dirs. Andre Muir and Daneille Alston | United States

“Patois” is a poetic film that authentically unravels the ineffable immigrant experience of distancing oneself from the mother (and the motherland) in order to belong. With sparse dialogue and evocative imagery of intimate moments that painfully capture adolescent belonging, the filmmakers present a complicated and striking character study of a young woman striking a balance between traditions of her homeland and life at an American school. The powerful lead performance from Chicago actor Mariah Gordon is as unique as it is universal, and the filmmakers serve her considerable talents with grace and skill. The result is the kind of cinematic achievement that’s possible when gifted story tellers are empowered to tell the stories they care about.

Live Action Short Film Competition

Gold Hugo

“The End of Suffering (a proposal)”
Dir. Jacqueline Lentzou | Greece

The Gold Hugo goes to “The End of Suffering (a proposal),” a haptic voyage that suspends in time and space. Through otherworldly imagery, atmospheric sound, and the interplay of the frenetic and static; texture and void; chroma and light; Lentzou offers an expansive outlook on outer space, being and cosmic connectedness for a reverie of the existential + intergalactic.

Silver Hugo

Dirs. Jamil McGinnis and Pat Heywood | United States

We are thrilled to announce “Gramercy” as this year’s Silver Hugo Award recipient. We were impressed by its deft and light-handed approach to storytelling, bestowing its characters with an uncommon fluidity, complexity and authenticity. “Gramercy” deals with pressing issues in both grounding and transcendent ways, bringing together naturalism and lyricism to tell a singular story.

Documentary Short Film Competition

Gold Hugo

“We Have One Heart”
Dir. Katarzyna Warzecha | Poland

The Gold Hugo is awarded to “We Have One Heart” by director Katarzyna Warzecha. The film tells the heartwarming story of an unlikely family reunification across several generations and geographical distance. The film masterfully weaves family archival materials with animation and compelling narrative voices to produce a highly unique and intimate visual documentary tapestry worthy of this important distinction.

Silver Hugo

“How to Disappear”
Dirs. Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, and Michael Stumpf | Austria

The Silver Hugo is awarded to “How to Disappear” by directors Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, and Michael Stumpf. The documentary offers an insightful anti-war essay on the history of desertion by bringing audiences into the visual world of the Battlefield video game. Through its well-paced discussion of the rules that order the game, the filmmakers effectively level an intelligent critique of the structural forces that discipline world conflict today, raising important and timely questions about human agency.

Animated Short Film Competition

Gold Hugo

“Tie” (Elo)
Dir. Alexandra Ramires | Portugal, France

Two figures wander a landscape, that is either prehistoric, or post-apocalyptic, they are souls disconnected from their corporal bodies, in ways that only animation can visualize. They are perhaps sole survivors, but their disconnection also reflects a more pervasive disconnect with mind and body, brain and heart, that humankind has wandered into. A beautiful inverted palette of black and white, pulls us in immediately and a great deal of quiet keeps us there. For it’s perfect melding of beauty and horror, we give the Gold Hugo to “Tie” by Alexandra Ramires.

Silver Hugo

“Step Into the River” (He An)
Dir. Weijia Ma | China, France

This beautiful film explores the extended history of Gender Prejudice in China, from valuing of boys over girls, to Female Infanticide. With pastel colors, and wonderful child acting, Weija reflects her own memories as a girl growing up in China in this powerful and important film. This story unfolds illustratively at first, but then takes a turn to the magical realism of the ghost world, in a land haunted by infant spirits. For its bravery and unforgettable images, We give the Silver Hugo to “Step Into the River” by Weija Ma

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