International Competition, Czech-Slovak Competition, Short Film Competition, Audience Award powered by Czech Television. And the student jury prize. AFO 58 festival has unveiled its winners across various categories, shining a spotlight on the finest science documentaries in the industry. The films that have captured the hearts and minds of our esteemed juries and audiences are now set to rule the science film world.
In the International Competition, the discerning jury singled out two exceptional films from a formidable selection this year. The documentary gem All That Breathes received special recognition, a testament to its exceptional achievement. This groundbreaking film, which made history by clinching top honors at both Sundance and Cannes, now adds another feather to its cap. The jury commended the film’s exploration of the „interspecies“ dynamic, highlighting the profound coexistence of humans and animals. Equally, the jury lauded director Shaunak Sen’s intimate and tender approach to his protagonists. However, the crowning glory of the International Competition went to Constant a medium-length documentary that delves deep into the human desire to quantify and control the world around us, offering a poignant reflection on political power. The documentary’s thematic depth resonated powerfully with the jury, who were also captivated by its innovative visual presentation, consistently surprising and engaging the audience.
The Czech-Slovak Competition also delivered two outstanding winners. Humans earned a special mention for its compelling exploration of diversity, a fearless challenge to heteronormativity, and a glimpse into the lives of non-cisgender individuals. The main prize was bestowed upon Invisible Landscapes, a work by Ivo Bystřičan celebrated for its elegant simplicity and minimalist approach, emphasizing the imperative message: we must listen attentively to our planet. This documentary stands as a visually and sonically unique and innovative achievement, setting a high watermark within the Czech documentary landscape.
In the realm of short films, Haulout emerged as the victor. This gripping 25-minute narrative follows the journey of field worker Maxim Čakilev as he uncovers the telling signs of climate change through the migration patterns of walruses. The jury lauded Haulout for its masterful storytelling and immersive cinematic experience. It approached its subject matter with profound care, unveiling a narrative that is both hauntingly beautiful and brutally honest. Remarkably, this year’s fiercely competitive short film category was conquered by a film that also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Short.
Next in line is the prestigious Audience Award, supported by Czech Television. Our festival-goers have spoken, and they crowned Fire of Love as the standout film in this year’s competition. This compelling documentary chronicles the lives of volcanologists Katia and Mauritz Krafft, a love story that had an explosive ending but left behind breathtaking footage. Set against the backdrop of nature’s lyrical power, Fire of Love narrates the mesmerizing tale of emergence and extinction, with intrepid explorers embarking on a journey into the unknown, fueled by their unwavering love.
And, to add to the acclaim, the student jury bestowed its accolade upon Path of the Panther. This emotionally charged documentary sheds light on the endangered existence of the Florida cougar, offering a rare glimpse into the wild animal’s natural habitat, hidden from human eyes. The Palacký University student jury commended the immense effort and dedication behind the film’s creation, emphasizing the tireless work of numerous individuals striving to safeguard this slowly vanishing species from the brink of extinction.
The 58th Academia Film Olomouc festival has celebrated these outstanding documentaries, each a testament to the power of filmmaking in illuminating the wonders and challenges of our world. Congratulations to all the winners who have elevated the art of science filmmaking to new heights.