The new Fipadoc documentary festival in Biarritz awarded ten prizes at the weekend, after five days of non-stop screenings of about 100 films in a wide range of categories.
The top international €5,000 award went to a Latvian-Czech Republic-Swiss film, Putin's Witnesses, directed by Vitaly Mansky, a Riga-based film maker in exile.
Putin's Witnesses is based on footage, which Mansky himself shot in the early years of Russian president Vladimir Putin's rule.
He filmed the leaders who heralded the end of Soviet rule and who ushered in a new era, including Boris Yeltsin's successor who has largely governed Russia since 1999. He could do this because he had been head of documentaries for Russian national television at the time.
Mansky condenses the footage into a film of just one hour and 42 minutes. The jury decided that was long enough to make it stand out for its documentary value.
The three-member jury picked the film out of ten in the category because they were swayed by "the documentary's overlapping, fascinating layers and wonderfully conceived form and substance, like a home-movie that is at the same time a critical and pertinent portrait.
"With this prize we pay tribute to a fresh critical view which will likely be of historical importance."
Each Fipadoc award has its dedicated jury.
Among the other Fipadoc 2019 awards:
- French Documentary - Quelle Folie (What Madness) directed by Diego Governatori
- Musical Documentary - The 5 Browns: Digging Through the Darkness directed by Ben Niles (USA)
- Impact (topical interest) - Coming Out (Out) directed by Denis Parrot (France)
- Erasmus New Talent - La Bestia Train of the Unknowns directed by Manuel Inacker (Germany)
- French-Language Audience Award - Maurice Béjart, The Soul of Dance
directed by Henri de Gerlache and Jean de Garrigues (France)
- Young Europeans Jury Award/Campus - A Thousand Girls Like Me directed by Sahra Mani (France/Afghanistan)
Among the other prize-winners, several French documentaries, but the different juries also films from Germany, Poland and US.