'Planet of Snail' Wins Amsterdam's International Documentary Film Festival

7:41 AM PST 11/27/2011 by Karsten Kastelan

The South Korean documentary traces the life story of a man who has been deaf and blind since birth.

AMSTERDAM – Seung-Jun Yi’s Planet of Snail, the story of a South Korean man blind and deaf since birth, has sped away with the best feature length documentary prize at the 24th International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The film, which traces the man's interactions with the world and his loving wife,  had been an early favorite of audiences and industry-attendees alike.

A special jury award and the audience award went to Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi for 5 Broken Cameras, about a Palestinian village’s restistance of encroaching Jewish settlements. Mid-length Argentinian documentary Montenegro by Jorge Gaggero and Chinese-Canadian co-production The Vanishing Spring Light by first-timer Xun Yu picked up other international honors, while the top Dutch award went to Jessica Gorter for 900 Days.

IDFA-officials confirm that 2011 had been a banner-year for the festival, widely regarded as one of the most important and influential showcases for documentaries, which hosted more than 2600 guests and saw a healthy increase in ticket-sales – especially important at a time when many public broadcasters have either tightened their budgets or gone off to join the ratings-race.

Spirits were equally up at the Docs for Sale market, which bristled with activity, and the Forum, where filmmakers presented their projects to a panel of broadcasters, leading to some regular love-fests at the audience attended Central Pitches – even though one has to assume that follow-up negotiations with individual filmmakers were apt to reflect market-conditions more clearly.

Apart from the winning titles, other notable documentaries were the satirical The Ambassador, in which director Mads Brugger goes undercover as a faux Liberian consul; Robert H. Lieberman’s secretly filmed and often heartbreaking They Call it Myanmar - Lifting the Curtain; and John Kirby and Robbie Gemmel’s Cape Spin, which examines the NIMBY-mentality of affluent citizens in the Nantucket Sound-area, resisting a proposed wind-farm despite their public commitment to green energy.

Guests at IDFA 2011 included Steve James, Morgan Spurlock, Joe Berlinger, Frederick Wiseman, Victor Kossakovsky, Eduardo Coutinho, Jonathan Stack, Maziar Bahari and Marina Goldovskaya.

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