The winners of the 20th annual Docaviv Film Festival have been announced this evening (May 23) in a ceremony held at Mindspace Tel- Aviv. Docaviv, the International Documentary Film Festival, which marks its 20th anniversary this year, will continue until May 26. This year’s festival has had a record-breaking lineup of 125 Israeli and international documentaries, as well as its first ever Shorts Competition. Festival attendance is at an all-time high, with many of the screenings selling out, and new screenings added due to high demand. Here are this year’s winners, sorted by category:

Israeli Competition

The Howard Gilman Award For the Best Israeli Documentary Film

Family in Transition

Ofir Trainin

NIS 70,000 prize Courtesy of Howard Gilman Israel Culture Foundation, supported by Glikson Camera Rental and Zinko Studios

Jury’s justification: With great sensitivity, this film tells the story of identities getting to know themselves and each other anew, and changing right before our eyes. The jury commends the filmmaker for the intimate dynamic he has formed with his subjects and for choosing to make their voices heard, unmediated. An important and timely film, it is a reminder of the power of documentary to refresh our experience of the world and make us question distorted worldviews. Behind the strong bond between subjects and audience is the director’s dedication to his subjects, and when the two meet, the magic happens.

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Special Jury Award

A Perfect Housewife

Jane Bibi

NIS 20,000 prize Courtesy of Harel Insurance Investments and Financial Services

Jury’s justification: A brave new voice, this filmmaker demonstrates an uncompromising relationship to her craft. Smashing through the restrictive taboos of traditional values, she forges new cinematic pathways to create an unforgettable portrait of the tremendous love that can exist between three generations of women.

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The Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo Award for Best Debut Film


Uriel Sinai, Danel Elpeleg

NIS 30,000 prize

Jury’s justification: Jumping between chaos and calm, poetry and humor, man and animal, this film transcends the clichés of its genre, providing a profoundly moving reflection on the fragility and preciousness of life.

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Best Cinematography Award

In The Desert – A Documentary Diptych

Cinematograper: Avner Faingulernt

NIS 4,000 prize Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, the Israel Film Council

Jury’s justification: In this opus, the cinematographer succeeds in crafting through his lens an epic allegory of hope infused with biblical intonations. From the harshest landscapes to the most intimate moments of human interaction, the camera is used with respectful restraint to accentuate the creator’s vision.

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Best Editing Award

The Wounded Healer

Editor: Yithzhak Sverdlov

NIS 4,000 prize Courtesy of The College of Management – School of Media

Jury’s justification: The editor’s authorial stamp is strong and skillful, weaving the story with great sensitivity and leading us from scene to scene with natural confidence. The editing makes a series of twists and turns while compassionately revealing a complex character coming to terms with his tragic past.

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Research Award

You Only Die Twice

Research: Niko Hofinger

NIS 4,000 prize Courtesy of the Emile Zola Chair for Human Rights

Jury’s justification: Research is the heart and soul of this film, a film where the director works as investigator, uncovering a personal mystery to reveal a profound truth about family, brotherhood and forgiveness.

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Best Original Music Award

A Sister’s Song

Composer: Peter Venne

NIS 5,000 prize Courtesy of ACUM, The Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers in Israel

Jury’s justification: In this film, a haunting original score interweaves the film’s competing dualities into the soundscape, fusing together the secular and the sacred worlds, the musical motifs succeed in mirroring the personal stories that unfold before us.

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AIDC Award for Innovative Filmmaking

A Sister’s Song

Danae Elon

Courtesy of AIDC, The Australian International Documentary Conference. The winner will be invited to attend the conference in March 2019. Air-fare and accommodation expenses will be covered.

Jury’s justification: This award recognizes the daring vision of a filmmaker who has shown a clear and deep understanding of the filmic language. An authorial stamp marks the film on every level, infusing the text with multiple layers of meaning, resulting in a meditative, thought-provoking journey that continues long after the film concludes.

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Israeli Competition Best Director Award by Fipresci

In The Desert – A Documentary Diptych

Avner Faingulernt

The International Federation of Film Critics award

Jury’s justification: A personal and humane look at both sides of one of the biggest conflict zones in the Middle East. The director of In the Desert finds two separate lyrical languages to tell the film’s stories in a way that serves the differences and similarities between the two sides. Despite being challenging and demanding, the film manages not to patronize the viewers or its subjects. In a film that is tough and gentle at the same time, big concepts like ownership, family, spirituality and calling are all translated into human moments.

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International Competition Winners

Best International Film Award

The Distant Barking of Dogs

Simon Lereng Wilmont

NIS 20,000 prize Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, the Israel Film Council

Jury’s justification: Set in a village near the Ukraine/Russia frontline this highly accomplished film is a unique window into traumatic experience of growing up next to the battle zone in echoes of artillery fire. The International Competition Main Award goes to Simon Lereng Wilmont’s The Distant Barking of Dogs.

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Honorable Mention

The Waldheim Waltz

Ruth Beckermann

Jury’s justification: The Honorable Mention goes to a film about truth and lies in politics. The filmmaker follows the investigation of the Jewish World Congress about the military past of the former General Secretary of the United Nations and Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, who has tried to hide his involvement in war crimes in Yugoslavia and Greece during World War II. The film combines private archival footage of the filmmaker with international material and shows how Waldheim and his conservative supporters tried to protect the myth of Austria as a victim of the Third Reich. Ruth Beckermann’s Waldheim Waltz is also a statement against growing populism and sometimes not even hidden anti-Semitism today.

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Depth of Field Competition

Artistic Vision Award

Playing Men

Matjaž Ivanišin

NIS 10,000 prize Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, the Israel Film Council

Jury’s justification: For its strong, memorable and vibrant cinematic language, its bold and surprising storytelling and its creative and alternative approach to the way we see men. In Playing Men, the male state of being is addressed in a funny, timely and touching way.

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Shorts Competition Winner

Best Short Film Award

Tracing Addai

Esther Niemeier

Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, the Israel Film Council

Jury’s justification: The winner of the Docaviv Shorts Competition is a true story about a son who disappeared without a trace. Addai, a young man, leaves his mother’s home to join a group of Salafi Syrian fighters and disappears, never to return. The director pieces together fragmented memories, facts and moments into a gentle, story loaded with emotion, yet manages to avoid pathos. The storylines converge into an honest examination of grief, regret and lost hope.

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The winners of the Students Competition in Memory and Honor of Ruthi Gottesman

First Prize

My Father’s Son

Hillel Rate, Ma’aleh School of Television, Film and the Arts

NIS 10,000 Courtesy of Yoav Gottesman

Jury’s justification: For its singular, emotionally stirring characters; for letting us glimpse at a uniquely close father-son relationship from a respectful, loving perspective; for drawing an unconventional portrait of religious masculinity.

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Second Prize

The Bride’s Tree

Shadi Habib Allah, Sam Spiegel Film and Television School

NIS 6,000 Courtesy of Yoav Gottesman

Jury’s justification: For its gentle, patient and lyrical look at nature and its inhabitants; for dealing with history, identity and legacy as seen through the eyes of children being raised into a grim political reality.

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Third Prize

A Train To The Horizon

Sharon Shahanny, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design

NIS 4,000 Courtesy of Yoav Gottesman

Jury’s justification: For turning the spotlight on the backyard of Israeli society and showing its personal and social aspects with sensitivity and humor. The day-to-day life stories the director has brought to the screen depict the complex human reality of life in the south of Israel, the far corner of its social consciousness.

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