Macao Film Festival's Top Prize Goes to Ben Sharrock's Indie Breakout 'Limbo'

Limbo
Courtesy of BFI/Film4

Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda received the event's career achievement honor, while Lance Henriksen won best actor for his performance in Viggo Mortensen's directorial debut 'Falling.'

The Macao International Film Festival (IFFAM) awarded its best film honor Tuesday to rising Scottish director Ben Sharrock's indie breakthrough Limbo. The film had been considered one of the hidden gems of this year’s coronavirus-hit Cannes Film Festival selection.

IFFAM was forced by the pandemic to shift its activities entirely online this year for its fifth annual edition, which screened a streamlined lineup of 31 features. During Tuesday's online awards ceremony Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda also received the festival’s honorary Spirit of Cinema career achievement award.

The festival's competition jury, which was lead by influential Chinese director Ning Hao, said it was unanimous in its decision to award the top prize to Sharrock, who also took home the best screenplay award. Best film comes with a cash prize of $60,000.

Limbo is an absurdist take on the modern refugee experience through the eyes of four Middle Eastern refugees relocated to a remote island in Scotland. The film has been praised for engaging the hard truths of the refugee experience without succumbing to the bleakness of typical social realest cinema. The Hollywood Reporter's critic described the film as a "timely feel-good fable about the kindness of strangers."

Said jury chief Hao in a statement: "The jury unanimously agreed that it was a thought-provoking piece of work, because of its in-depth exploration of society and also the relationship between culture and humanity. Combined with the director’s unique film language and a modern artistic style, it magically blends together and gives the audience unforgettable pleasure and enjoyment of all senses."

Macao's best director prize went to French filmmaker Suzanne Lindon for her work in romantic drama Spring Blossom, another title originally included in Cannes aborted 2020 selection. Best actor was awarded to Lance Henriksen for his performance in Viggo Mortensen's directorial debut Falling, while best actress went home with Magdalena Koleśnik for her turn in the Polish film Sweat. The short film competition prize went to Jiao Yue for Under.

Mike Goodridge, Macao's artistic director, said: “It was a daunting challenge for the whole team to take the festival online, but we are happy with the results and have received great feedback from the people of Macao and Hong Kong who have been enjoying the program. Many thanks to Alvin Chau, Gina Lei and her team for their unwavering support. We hope that we can return to the cinemas next year for the sixth edition."