Best Director and the Best Actress Prizes for the “Birds Are Singing in Kigali” at the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival / by Ada Zielinska

Birds Are Singing in Kigali by Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze got the prestigious Silver Hugo for the Best Director Prize at this year’s Chicago International Film Festival, while Jowita Budnik and Eliane Umuhire have been both awarded with the Best Actress Prize.

“This film sets itself a huge challenge, both artistic and ethical, of evoking a tragedy without simply re-staging its events or relying on sentimentality to move its audience. The tough, inventive direction allows such risks to pay off, alternating between realist and poetic styles in ways that achieve a tremendous emotional force, expanding the boundaries for how trauma can be commemorated on screen. The jury acknowledges with sorrow the many places around the globe where this story remains relevant, and honors Joanna Kos-Krauze as well as, posthumously, her late husband and co-director, Krzysztof Krauze.” wrote the Jury in its statement accompanying the Best Director Prize. Awarding the Best Actress Prize to both Jowita Budnik and Eliane Umuhire, the Jury reflected: “The only way to honor these two performances, so dissimilar in style yet perfectly in sync, is to award a joint citation. Each actress brought depth and power to the scenes that emphasized her character, making Anna and Claudine accessible to the audience without divulging all their secrets. When acting together, they conveyed a unique symbiosis, sometimes painful, sometimes comforting, that will bond these women forever.”

The Gold Hugo, in the International Feature Film Competition, went to Argentinian director Diego Lerman’s A Sort of Family, the story of a doctor’s desperate journey to adopt a baby girl, which had its U.S. premiere in Chicago.  The Silver Hugo Special Jury Prize was awarded to Félicité, (Senegal, France, Belgium) directed by Alain Gomis. Iranian director Vahid Jalilvand took home top honors in the New Directors Competition with a Gold Hugo for No Date, No Signature, and the Silver Hugo was awarded to Milad Alami for The Charmer (Denmark). The Roger Ebert Award, presented to an emerging filmmaker with a fresh and uncompromising vision by Chaz Ebert, was awarded to Colombian director Laura Mora for Killing Jesús.

“All of the films competing for prizes this year were outstanding, and I salute our jury for rising to the daunting task of selecting those that received the top honors,” said Festival Artistic Director Mimi Plauché. “We are proud to honor such a diverse group of films, shining a spotlight on the extraordinary work being created by men and women throughout the world.  This year’s honorees span the globe, featuring talent from almost every continent, as well as one who lives only a few miles from the theater.”

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