The Winners of the 19th Seoul International Eco Film Festival

We announce the award winners of the International and Korean Competition.
Thanks again for all of the audience, filmmakers, and juries who support and visit the 19th Seoul International Eco Film Festival.

[International Competition]
Best Film: Mata, Fábio NASCIMENTO, Ingrid FADNES
Special Jury Award: Haulout, Evgenia ARBUGAEVA, Maxim ARBUGAEV
Audience’s Choice: Coextinction, Gloria PANCRAZI, Elena JEAN

[Korean Competition]
Grand Prize: OSHKA Winds of Change, KIM Myoungyoon
Excellence Prize: Piano Prism, OH Jae Hyeong
Special Audience Jury Award: In the Sky Where Seasons Pass ByKO Hanbul

International Competition

The twelve films in International Competition presented diverse perspectives, raised concerns, and offered plans for improvement for environmental issues through documentaries, fiction, feature length and short film format. Topics ranging from the Siberian permafrost melting due to climate change, nomads in Xinjiang, China who are disappearing as a result of development, Malawi in Africa suffering from lack of drinking water in stark contrast to the pleasures enjoyed at a resort in the Mediterranean, and the sad stories of animals on the verge of extinction all warn against the greed and ignorance of the entire human race in these films that also excelled in cinematic expression. We would like to express our gratitude and respect to the filmmakers and producers who managed to overcome the difficult circumstances of the COVID pandemic and completed their films and would like to conclude the jury’s comments for the 19th Seoul International Eco Film Festival with a quote by a farmer from one of the films; “Earth doesn’t need humans, but humans need Earth.” (CHUN Jin-Su)

Best Film

A documentary about the large scale eucalyptus farms and the lagoon which is now gone, Mata calmly portrays how so-called economic efficiency and development can turn into an instant killing machine that threatens the entire ecosystem including humans. Directors Fábio NASCIMENTO and Ingrid FADNES demonstrate that corporations maximizing profit and personal economic accomplishment are no longer a matter of choice and method. They effectively instill the chilling fear that this is a social, political course of action which will determine the survival of a community that absolutely must be altered and transformed and that specific compromise and sacrifice are necessary. (KIM Nan-Sook)

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Special Jury Award

The jury wants to recognize Haulout for the remarkable artistry it has achieved in the nonfiction form, its emotional restraint, and the powerful story that unfolds as a researcher bears witness to the incredible and heartbreaking consequences of the climate crisis. (Elizabeth LO)

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Audience’s Choice

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Korean Competition

The jury for the 19th Seoul International Eco Film Festival was faced with a delightful dilemma in reviewing films diverse in styles and themes in Korean Competition. Out of the eight films in the selection, none could be grouped together under any specific trend, demonstrating how creators are pondering over a widening scope of ‘environmental films’. On one hand, this is evidence that the environment itself that creators are contemplating on obviously includes our daily lives but is also expanding to a bigger world, which made this year’s jury choices all the more important.
First, KIM Myoungyoon’s OSHIKA Winds of Change, the winner of the Grand Prize, is set in a small Japanese village where construction for a new Shinkansen bullet train has just begun. The main character who is a British migrant and the director who is a Korean studying in Japan already shows the expanded perspective of environmental issues. The issue is still ongoing and the residents look far into the future.
Piano Prism, the Excellence Prize winner, may not be considered within the category of environmental film at first glance but trying to determine that and the discussion itself could be seen as an example of how close we are to environmental films. OH Jae Hyeong who is the protagonist featured around a piano uses an experimental style to convey various social issues in a refreshing way.
However, films that were not chosen to receive the Grand Prize or the Excellence Prize were also outstanding in their respective ways. KO Hanbul’s In the Sky Where Seasons Pass By demonstrates endurance and humor in its faithful and intriguing documentation of a year in the life of sixth graders, SIM Younghwa’s Locking Horns is a keen observation and presentation of the issues involving regional bullfights that we had not been aware of, KIM Jeonhan’s Poets’ Window thoughtfully captures how precious daily life is as the COVID-19 era nears its end, JO Eunsung’s A Tale of Old Cities is a focused documentary that sheds light on the present and the future in addition to the history of the original city center of Incheon, KIM Ji-gon’s The Steel Boat is yet again an impressively poetic documentary with well-balanced image-telling following his previous film Unfamiliar Dreams, and HEO Cheol-nyeong’s 206: Unearthed joins the journey of a team that uncovers the remains of civilian victims who were massacred during the Korean War and remembers to raise the serious issue of the things we have forgotten about as we live our lives.
We would have loved to award every film, but instead we had to deliberate again and again in order to choose 2 winners. KIM Myoungyoon who resides in Japan and teaches Korean on Japanese film sets and OH Jae Hyeong who is an art major that puts on audiovisual performances which combine moving images and playing the piano are the two award-winners who can be seen as new filmmakers with no prior experience working on conventional environment films. Accordingly, we believe that choosing these two unknown filmmakers who have shown new talent to receive awards shows the significant and bright future of environmental films and the Seoul International Eco Film Festival. (JU Sungchul)

Grand Prize
OSHIKA Winds of Change
KIM Myoungyoon

OSHIKA Winds of Change was commended by the jury for its space, characters, and incidents that fulfilled the criteria of an eco film festival and is a film that can gain universal sympathy. This film contains a gentle energy. It permeates among the facial expressions and conversations and daily lives of the people that form a community in a small town called Oshika who have diverse identities and become one as they worship the land and the trees. The way they respect and persuade even the external destroyers that are barging in under the name of development feels like an extension of their gentle life. The source of that gentleness must be an ecological world view which is an organic relationship between myself and the world. The fight to protect nature against development may come across as a cliché narrative in an environmental film festival, but the film’s unique gentle quality transcends the stereotypical to bring the story of the people of Oshika to us in an endearing way. This is likely the result of the filmmaker having built relationships over a considerable amount of time. Furthermore, we were quite surprised to learn that this was the graduation film by the Korean director had been studying in Japan. We praise the deep emotions and good qualities of this well-made debut film and wish the filmmaker good luck in his future endeavors. (NAM Taeje)

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Excellence Prize
Piano Prism
OH Jae Hyeong

The jury has selected Piano Prism for the Excellence Prize in the Korean Competition. The film unanimously struck a chord with all of us as a refreshing and unconventional approach to environmental cinema. Through artist/ filmmaker Oh Jae-hyeong’s yearning to master an instrument that he has begun to learn as an adult, the piano becomes a central character accompanying his everyday wanderings and experiences; a prism that refracts his moving responses to the social and environmental issues that surround him. We are brought into the centre of this existence through the filmmaker’s passion and practice and the piano ultimately feels like a powerful ally in his audio-visual performances as we experience his films and gorgeous animation as light projected over hands on the piano keys. (Katherine BRUCE)

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Special Audience Jury Award
In the Sky Where Seasons Pass By
KO Hanbul

In the Sky Where Seasons Pass By contains the boisterous days of the students in Class 1 of 6th Grade at Deoksan Elementary School in Jecheon City. No day is boring for Lee Yun-jae, the teacher who was recently transferred here, and the kids who will be graduating in one year. Fifteen children with distinctly different characters run around the village after school. The mountains and fields that change with the seasons and the stream that flows especially cold in the summer. The children find companionship in nature spread out before them instead of standardized education.
Nothing grows flawlessly. Just like everyone else, the children experience conflict and reconciliation as they grow. The homeroom teacher who is an adult also must face change as they spend time with the children. Steadily, that time builds up and paves the way to growth. As such, the children do not stop at simply acting like an immature being that acts childish. From hateful expressions based on the perception that children are immature to a ‘No Kids Zone’ that excludes children. The world where adults and children co-mingle makes us reflect on the appearance of the community that we need to achieve together.
The image of the children also does not just remain solely theirs. The way someone who has become an adult looks at the children and the value of emotions that cannot be appreciated once we are grown up. The filmmaker’s perspective that wants to evoke these sentiments can be keenly felt through the screen. These faint emotions reach out and touch the audience as they themselves also have experienced such days. The sky where seasons pass is constantly on the move. Just as a child stops in the middle of running around freely and takes out a cell phone to capture the beautiful landscape, the splendid times that we so want to hold onto form layer upon layer on the screen. (KWON Young Eun)

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