31 Message to Man IFF Announces Prize Winners and Award Recipients

The 31st Message to Man International Film Festival is concluding with a closing ceremony held online for the first time. For many years, the festival has been among Russia’s leading film presentation events in terms of the number of applications and the geographical scope of participants. In 2021, 2,629 applications from 100 countries of the world were submitted for the qualifying round of the festival. Only 76 films were included in the competition.

On November 3, the winning films of 2021 were announced at the closing ceremony of the festival, which was held online without attendees.

Among the participants of the award ceremony were President of the Festival Alexei Uchitel, director Goran Radovanović, programme director of the Festival Alexei Medvedev, curator of the National Competition and the Panorama.doc programme Natalia Pylaeva, chairwoman of the jury, director of animated films Natalia Dabizha, members of the jury scriptwriter and actor Srdan Golubović, hungarian director Ágnes Kocsis, Yakut filmmaker Vladimir Munkuev, French director and composer Siegfried Debrebant, director, screenwriter, producer and cinematographer Dmitry Frolov, non-fiction filmmaker Ksenia Okhapkina.

In addition to the films in competition, the festival team prepared 4 special programmes with unique content, one retrospective, and four special screenings. Due to the new city-wide COVID restrictions that came into effect on October 30, the film festival was held in a hybrid format. On October 29, six venues showed films in the key special programmes: Panorama.doc, Superreal Cinema and Catching Up.  Some of the films of the National Competition programme were screened at Lendoc and Poryadok Slov, and the opening ceremony of the festival took place on the New Stage of the Alexandrinsky Theatre. From October 30 to November 4, films in the International, Experimental and National competitions, as well as parts of the out-of-competition programmes, were available for streaming at Nonfiction.film.

“The festival took place in extreme conditions, of course. We only had one day offline, for the remaining time we had to go online. Nevertheless, the event did happen. It is very important for me, as a program director, that we managed to bring in the international jury for both Russian and International competitions, as well as for the In Silico competition. So, the jury not only watched the films, but discussed them, too. It seemed to me that the members of the jury connected with each other, there were many films they liked, and the winning films do not raise questions. They are all deserving films, and I am very pleased with that.

I would like to say a few words about the film that won the Grand Prix: Babi Yar. Context by Sergey Loznitsa. I have already had discussions with my colleagues who asked us why this film was in the competition; after all, it is a film by powerhouse director, and it is a war-related topic – the Holocaust. And it was obvious that this movie would seize all the attention. But it seems to me that we took Loznitsa’s film not because of its subject or a world-known author, but because it is a very masterful work from the artistic standpoint. It is all about the professionalism of his work with sound, with images, with editing, with historical data. The newsreels that he discovered, and how he edited them… He does it like no one else in the world does. That is why it seems to me that this award – the Grand Prix – is not so much a tribute to the gravity of this film or its tragic subject, but rather a proper recognition of professional skill. And I am very happy about that as well,” said Alexei Medvedev, Programme Director of the Message to Man Film Festival.

“I have mixed feelings. We were preparing for screenings in large rooms, we were preparing to meet the audience. And all of a sudden, a week before the start, it turned out that everything had to be changed. It all happened so quickly that we didn’t even have the time to be fearful. There was no time, we had to regroup and switch to another format. I have a good feeling overall. It seems to me that on the first day, before we had to go online, we had good screenings and discussions, and when we went online… it was strange because we couldn’t see our audience. So, when you look at your computer screen, you hope that the viewers gather somewhere out there to watch the programme, and, apparently, they indeed gathered and watched, because I see people respond and share their impressions. And of course, thanks to online streaming, the films could be seen by viewers who normally wouldn’t attend the festival, people from other cities, and people who, perhaps, had not known about Message to Man before. We had good discussions over Zoom, they are still available on our VK page. For example, the meeting with Helena Třeštiková who was interviewed by Alexei Medvedev was historic. We had more good meetings, the recordings are now available. It feels good overall, but then again it is too early to analyze. Much like we had no time to be fearful in the beginning, we now haven’t had the time yet to realize what it was, where we succeeded, and what changed because the festival switched to online mode so abruptly,” said Mikhail Zheleznikov, curator of the In Silico experimental short films competition.



Golden Centaur Grand Prix and 3,000 USD prize for Best Film
Babi Yar. Context, directed by Sergey Loznitsa, 120 min, Ukraine / Netherlands, 2021


Centaur Prize and 500 USD for Best Full-length Documentary
Taming the Garden, directed by Salomé Jashi, 92 min, Switzerland / Georgia / Germany, 2021


Centaur Prize and 500 USD for Best Full-length Documentary
Anny, directed by Helena Třeštiková, 67 min, Czech Republic, 2020


Centaur Prize and 1,000 USD for Best Documentary Short Film
Three Songs for Benazir, directed by Elizabeth Mirzaei, Gulistan Mirzaei, 22 min, Afghanistan, 2021


Centaur Prize and 1,000 USD for Best Live Action Short Film
Almost Spring, directed by Nastya Korkiya, 14 min, Russia, 2021


Centaur Prize and 1,000 USD for Best Animated Film
Life’s a Bitch, directed by Varya Yakovleva, 6 min, Russia, 2021


Centaur Prize and 1,000 USD for Best Debut
After a Room, directed by Naomi Pacifique, 21 min, United Kingdom, 2020


Special Mention of the Jury: On Time, directed by Zbigniew Czapla, 6 min, Poland / Japan, 2021


Special Mention of the Jury: Megamall, directed by Aline Schoch, 4 min, Switzerland, 2020



Centaur Prize and 50,000 RUB for Best Film of the National Competition
Cells, directed by Dmitry Lukyanov, 57 min, Russia, 2021


Jury Centaur Prize and 30,000 RUB
The Fence, directed by Maria Kogan-Lerner, 8 min, Russia, 2020




Centaur Prize and 500 USD for Best Experimental Film
And Then They Burn The Sea, directed by Majid Al-Remaihi, 13 min, Qatar, 2021


Centaur Prize and 500 USD for Best Experimental Film
Meteor, directed by Anya Tsyrlina, 12 min, Russia, 2020


Diploma: Irani Bag, directed by Maryam Tafakory, 8 min, United Kingdom, 2020



Do You Believe in God?, directed by Grigory Muzurov, 17 min, Russia, 2021


Diploma ‘For the integrity of experiment and the search for the essence of documentary film’: A Man and a Camera, directed by Guido Hendrikx, 64 min, Netherlands, 2021


Babi Yar. Context, directed by Sergey Loznitsa, 120 min, Ukraine / Netherlands, 2021



Honorary Festival President Prize ‘For Love and Dedication to Cinema’
Long Shot, directed by Vladimir Golovnev, 67 min, Russia, 2021


General Sponsor Prize – Ilim Group
Long Shot, directed by Vladimir Golovnev, 67 min, Russia, 2021


Alexander Rastorguev Prize ‘For talented and capacious embodiment of freedom’
The Fence, directed by Maria Kogan-Lerner, 8 min, Russia, 2020


ERC Bellona Special Prize ‘For best film to reflect the complexity of relations between human and environment’
The Trees, directed by Ramzi Bashour, 23 min, Lebanon, USA, 2020


Danya Gurevich Prize ‘For best cinematography’
A Boy, directed by Vitaly Akimov, 53 min, Russia, 2020


International Federation of Film Societies Prize ‘For poignant integrity and deep understanding of both the laws of cinematography and the reality of life’
Life of Ivanna, directed by Renato Borrayo Serrano, 80 min, Russia, Estonia, 2021


General sponsor of the XXXI Message to Man International Film Festival: Ilim Group
Ilim Group is the largest manufacturer of pulp and paper products in Russia. The group includes three pulp and paper mills in Koryazhma (Arkhangelsk Region), Bratsk and Ust-Ilimsk (Irkutsk Region), two modern corrugated board plants in the Leningrad and Moscow regions, as well as the Sibgiprobum design institute in Irkutsk. Products are delivered to more than 70 countries. The company is implementing the largest investment programme in the Russian timber industry: the plan exceeds 200 billion roubles, which will allow to increase the annual output volume to 4.5 million tons of products by 2025. One of the main priorities is developing the environmental action plans to limit the burden on the environment. The company continuously implements the best available technologies (BAT) at its mills to reduce their environmental impact. In 2020, 11 billion roubles was allocated to environmental projects which represents more than a third of the total volume of investments made by Ilim Group.