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New Jersey Independent Film Festival: Award Winners Announced

For the inaugural edition of the New Jersey Independent Film Festival, 51 films out of more than 600 entries from all over the globe were selected to be screened at Park Theatre.

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation and government regulations, a live event was not in the cards on the foreseen dates. As previously announced, the New Jersey Independent Film Festival team decided to postpone this year's screenings by a year. This means we will be hosting a double edition in 2022, in which both the 2021 and 2022 official selections will be screened.

However, an international team of jury members was assembled to view and rate this year's selection. We are happy to share with you today the 2021 award winners.

The prize for the Best Narrative Feature Film went to Darkness of Otherwhere (Japan) by Ayoub Qanir. “A young woman gets emotionally caught in a voyeuristic game on the dark shades of Tokyo only to reveal a darker past of her own.”

Best Latin American Film went to Hoy (El Salvador) by Ricardo B'atz’. “In the capital of El Salvador, the drivers of a bus, a taxi, a minibus and a private car confront the ravages of 12 years of civil war that continue to torment the country.”

Ala Kachuu - Take and Run (Switzerland) by Maria Brendle received the award for Best Narrative Short Film. “Sezim (19) wants to fulfill her dream of studying in the Kyrgyz capital when she gets kidnapped by a group of young men and taken to the hinterland. There she’s forced to marry a stranger. If she refuses the marriage, she is threatened with social stigmatization and exclusion. Torn between her desire for freedom and the constraints of Kyrgyz culture, Sezim desperately seeks for a way out.”

Best Documentary Feature Film went to Good Girls Don't Get Beaten (Belarus) by Halina Adamovich “Excessive use of force in self-defense is among the most wide-spread reasons why women are put in prison. Over 140 countries of the world have laws against domestic violence. There’s no such law in the Republic of Belarus.”

Spontaneous (United States) by Lori Felker was awarded with Best Documentary Short Film. “You never know when someone is miscarrying; it could be happening right next to you.”

The boy and the owl (Portugal) by Mário Gajo de Carvalho won the prize for Best Animated Film. “A young boy lives his life in a magical way, surrounded by the picturesque atmosphere of his village, in this fable about love and the act of letting go.”

The award for Best Experimental Film was for American Express (Germany) by Häly Heinecker. “Following the filmmaker through the aftermath of a long-distance relationship, spaces which where once relevant points of connection are revisited as part of an individual journey. Superposition of distance and proximity creates a cathartic expercience. An experimental exploration of anxious attachment, removing projection and resolving in clarity.”

Best Music Video went to Bellydance Vogue (Lebanon) by Hadi Moussally. "My birthday was on the 3rd of April 2020 during lockdown, and for the first time, I celebrated it all by myself. But even if I was alone, I decided to celebrate it as if it’s the last one"

And last but not least, Best New Jersey Film was awarded to My Father (United States) by Daniele Sestito. “An adolescent girl fears that her father is going to kill her.”

The New Jersey Independent Film Festival showcases global independent films. Not only does the festival bring a diverse selection of cutting-edge films to Union City, it will also honor the city’s Hispanic population by featuring a special section featuring work by Latin American filmmakers. NJIFF is the newest member of a family of film festivals including the Venice Film Week, the Boston Short Film Festival, the Hong Kong Arthouse Film Festival, and many more! It's fair to say the festival is in good company.

The Park Performing Arts Center is the hub of the festival. Inside the Arts Center is the newly restored Park Theater, one of the major movie theaters remaining from the early heyday of the North Jersey cultural landscape. With its vaulted ceiling, curtained stage area, and seating for up to 1400 people, this 89-year-old architectural masterpiece is the perfect venue to host a modern festival as diverse as the theater’s history.

We hope to see you all next year for an exciting live double edition!


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