FESTIVALS: The Widowed Witch wins Tiger Award in Rotterdam

Chinese filmmaker Cai Chengjie’s The Widowed Witch has won the Hivos Tiger Award at this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).

The Hivos Tiger Award is IFFR’s most prestigious award and includes a cash prize of €40,000 to be divided between the filmmaker and the producer.

Produced by Jiao Feng and Hu Xiaotao, The Widowed Witch tells the story of a woman who travels around northern China in a motor home after losing her home and husband, pretending to be a shaman who can rid villagers of evil spirits.

The IFFR Tiger jury said in a statement: “This year’s Hivos Tiger Award winner is a film of epic dimensions with a narrative that is greater than one person or moment. It takes a feminist viewpoint with a strong central character, who refuses to be a victim.

“The struggle of her journey is framed in an emotional way that depicts her complexity, while never becoming sentimental, and the film even contains a laconic sense of humour. Its bold vision, created by a lyrical layering of cinematographic elements, makes this film stand out.”

The Tiger jury also presents a Special Jury Award worth €10,000 to a film for outstanding artistic achievement. This year, the prize went to Rami Alayan for his screenplay of The Reports On Sarah And Saleem. Directed by Muayad Alayan, the film revolves around the consequences of an affair between a Palestinian man and an Israeli woman.

“This well-crafted screenplay shows us four humans, each with their own flaws and desires, who have to face the consequences of their actions in a complicated, divided world,” said the Tiger jury in a statement.

“The screenplay intertwines the personal and the political and manages to balance a complex plot with convincing characters. This proves to be the basis for a strong film by a talented director and an excellent cast.”

Other award winners at this year’s IFFR (January 24 – February 4) included:

IFFR Audience Award – Gustav Möller’s The Guilty

Bright Future Award – Tiago Melo’s Azougue Nazaré

VPRO Big Screen Award – Olga Chajdas’ Nina

Hubert Bals Fund Audience Award – Muayad Alayan’s The Reports On Sarah and Saleem

FIPRESCI Award – Ere Gowda’s Balekempa

KNF Award – Lucrecia Martel’s Zama

NETPAC Award for best Asian film – Shireen Seno’s Nervous Translation

IFFR Youth Jury Award – Gustav Möller’s The Guilty