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Ukraine Documentary Wins Vilnius Film Festival Best Film Award

Maciek Hamela’s In The Rearview, a documentary that follows the stories of Ukrainians forced to flee the war, has won best film at the 2024 Vilnius Film Festival.

The Vilnius jury picked the “touching documentary” for its top prize in a unanimous vote. Filmed in the first days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the film tells stories of trauma, loss and humanity as it follows a small van that crisscrosses the war-torn country, picking up Ukrainians as they are forced to abandon their homes at the front and shuttling them across the battered landscape into exile.

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“In the backseat of the vehicle, the refugees talk about what they had to leave behind — their house, their animals, their family and their belief in a peaceful life — filling it with the fate of an entire nation,” the Vilnius said in its statement. “On its way out, it passes ruins, soldiers and tanks. In its rearview mirror you can see more than just a destroyed country — it also shows destroyed hope. But at least its passengers managed to escape.”

British actress Saura Lightfoot Leon received a special mention from the Vilnius jury for her leading performance in the mother-daughter drama Hoard from British director Luna Carmoon. The jury praised Leon for her “fearless, present and very tactile acting as an enormously complicated young woman.”

Film still of Hoard from director Luna Carmoon
Saura Lightfoot Leon and Tim Bowie in ‘Hoard.’

The Peasants, the hand-painted animated period drama from Loving Vincent directors DK and Hugh Welchman, took this year’s audience award at Vilnius. The film, which had its world premiere in Toronto last year, was Poland’s official Oscar contender.

In the short film competition, Gleb Osatinski’s Resentment, about a 17-year-old rebelling against the authorities in 1990s Soviet Ukraine, won the prize for best film. Egle Davidavice won best Lithuanian short film for his animated film The One Who Knows, with Leila Basma receiving a special mention for her live-action drama Sea Salt.

The winners were announced at a gala ceremony in Vilnius on Thursday evening.

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