‘A Scarecrow’ by breakthrough Nepali director Rajesh Prasad Khatri, has won the UNICEF Iris 75 award at the UNICEF Innocenti Film Festival 2021 (UIFF). The festival, which is organized by UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti, celebrates films that have skillfully captured what it means to be a child today. Taking place 21-24 October in Florence (Italy), the festival featured 38 films from 29 countries.
UIFF has introduced the Iris Award to recognize excellence in filmmaking about children and to encourage exploration of childhood all over the world as a cinematic theme. In its second edition, the response has been encouraging with a total of 1700 films submitted for consideration from 114 countries.
The honor for the best overall film at UIFF is the ‘UNICEF 75 Iris,’ created to mark UNICEF’s 75th anniversary, now being celebrated around the world. An international jury selected ‘A Scarecrow’ written and directed by self-taught Nepali filmmaker, Rajesh Prasad Khatri, for the top award. Rajesh Khatri, who is also a schoolteacher, accurately depicts the cultural barriers that often prevent young girls from gaining an education.
"Being a teacher in the remotest village, I have had the privilege to interact with a group of innocent kids where I always learn to feel the stories of each students' cold homes, broken dreams, and their tears along with my experience. Most of all, these are the stories of truth which I am hoping to advocate for their rights and share their stories to the world through the medium of Cinema," said Mr Khatri.
A list of all winners:
UNICEF 75 Iris
The jury selected A Scarecrow because of its rich visual symbolism and its crucial message to uphold the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Set in a Himalayan mountain community, the film tells the story of a young girl taken out of school to help her mother earn a living making scarecrows.
Written and directed by Rajesh Prasad Khatri
Best Film, Under 18 Iris
The Game: This short drama, made by a group of children in the slums of Nairobi, tells the story of determination and creativity to play the game they love. The jury commended the artistry of the young amateur filmmakers as well as its message: young people will not allow their circumstances to hinder them.
Written and directed by Felix Omondi, Kelsey Ochieng, Don Ishmael, Michael Okoth, and Samantha Celine Okoth, with the help from Matshepo, Slum Frames and Oasis of Hope.
Best Film, Childhood in the Pandemic
Antara: This short documentary tells the story of lockdown through the eyes of a young girl living in a dense neighborhood in Bangladesh. They jury selected this film because of its ability to convey the young protagonist’s sense of entrapment.
Written and directed by Farid Ahmad
Best Film, Open Category - Non-Fiction
Being Someone Else: This documentary follows a thirteen-year-old as she prepares for Comic Con and reflects on the impacts of her disability.The jury noted this intimate portrayal’s fresh perspective on understanding children with autism.
Produced and directed by ØyvindAamli
Best Film, Open Category – Fiction
The Name of the Son: This short drama follows a 13-year-old trans boy on vacation with his father and younger sister, where the new closeness puts their relationship to the test. The jury praised the nuance, and sensitivity used to depict the raw relationship between father and son.
Written and directed by Martina Matzkin
Special Mention, Directing
Island Living: Set against the backdrop of Iceland’s East Fjords, a young boy discovers friendship through the power of music. But when summer ends, he struggles to assert his individuality in a society that calls for conformity. Subtle shifts in emotional tone between scenes beautifully captures this friction.
Directed by Viktor Sigurjonsso
Special Mention, Writing
Prashna: Seasonal sugar cane workers migrate from place to place for work, making schooling difficult for their son. Despite economic and caste realities, they find a path. This short drama is powerful in its simplicity and its message which affects millions of children around the world.
Written and Directed by Santosh Ram
UIFF Special Award of Merit
Iraq’s Lost Generation: In northeastern Syria, thousands of “children of ISIS” live with no schools, no services, and no rights. This documentary meets these children trying to find a future somewhere between resilience and revenge and shows the devastating impact of modern warfare on children.
Written and directed by Anne Poiret
UIFF Special Award of Merit
The City Within: Providing a fresh take on disability, a visually impaired boy waiting for his Italian citizenship and a child trapped at home during lockdown introduce the viewer to their home city of Bologna.
Written and directed by Anna Di Manincor