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The IVth OKO International Ethnographic Film Festival announces the winners 2023

From October 1 to 7, the capital of Bulgaria became a meeting place for filmmakers from all over the world. The film festival, which originated in Ukrainian Bessarabia, was held this year in its second homeland. The festival's program featured 46 ethnographic films from 22 countries, again making it possible to demonstrate the world's richness and diversity, address critical issues, make unexpected discoveries, and, most importantly, better understand each other.


On October 7th, around 70 admirers of ethnographic films and the OKO gathered at the G8 Cultural Center. The Bulgarian and Ukrainian jury members announced the names of the winning films in four competition categories, which received cash prizes, diplomas, and festival awards. In addition, four more films received special mentions.

Here are the favorites of our jury members:


International Feature Film Winner


Golden Land, dir. Inka Achte (Finland)

When Finnish-Somalian Mustafe discovers his ancestors' land in the horn of Africa is full of copper and gold, he decides to swap his family's safe but boring life in Finland -the country hailed as the happiest and most equal in the world- for Somaliland, a self-declared state in East Africa. As Mustafe struggles to lift the treasures from underground, his children embark on a bumpy journey to uncover where they really belong.

This film received the award for its cinematic and touching storytelling, which transports us to another part of the world by following the life of a family, making us realize that home is within us.


International Short Film Winner


The Discoverer of the Discoverers, dir. C.S. Nicholson (Norway)

A family in West Africa tells the story of how their ancestor discovered the European explorers — to a European film crew. We get to see how this encounter is still remembered ritually. But do all the claims about the historic event bear a closer look? And to which degree can we trust the filmmaker's white gaze? This short documentary explores how pride and conscience may affect collective memories.


The film received the award for its impressive storytelling and incredible combination of creative and ethnographic components, revealing the cause and nature of fetishism as a consequence of colonization.


Special Mention for a poetic metaphor that highlights the dark sides of the socialist past unconventionally went to


The Order of Things, dir. Ramona Badescu, Jeff Silva (Romania)

At the ripe age of 90, Alexandru gardens, jokes, and continues to repair watches in the workshop opened by his father in 1909, somewhere in southern Romania. But what is invisible to everyone and what has changed his life forever is his past as a political prisoner. The Order of Things is an attempt to record the fragmented memory of one of the last direct witnesses of the Romanian forced labor camps and political prisons and an ode to resilience.


National Feature Film Winner (Ukraine)


Life to the Limit, dir. Pavlo Peleshok

From the Revolution of Dignity to full-scale war. Successful Ukrainian film producers took up arms to defend the country and cameras to capture the terrible reality. Veterans Pavlo and Yurko assembled a mosaic of causes and impacts that entailed the current Russian-Ukrainian war from the end of 2013 to the present day, from the fragments of their memories and their film archive. The authors joined the frontline voluntarily, had been to the hot spots of Donbas, and created a homemade drone called Furia, named after one of the best aerial reconnaissance units. They continued working to show the world the truth about the horrific war that became possible in the 21st century.


The jury's motivation for awarding this particular film was the excellent work with archival footage and the incredible personal story of the director, who also became the hero of his creation.


Special Mention in the category National Feature Film (Ukraine) was given to the film


Waking Up in Silence, dir. Mila Zhluktenko, Daniel Asadi Faezi

A former Wehrmacht barracks now serves as a refugee camp for people from Ukraine. Waking up in silence accompanies the children on their journey, where their history intertwines with the barracks. A moment between past and future, war and silence, departure and arrival, which paints a portrait of Germany's past and present through the eyes of its young protagonists.


National Short Film Category Winner (Bulgaria)


Horo Between Two Shores, dir. Ekaterina Minkova

At the heart of the project, "Horo between two shores," are little-known and fading rituals in the Vlach villages in Northwestern Bulgaria and Serbia related to the funeral and memorial tradition. The rites here provoke the senses with impactful juxtapositions of the borderline theme – life and death. A topic constantly opens beyond specific regional practices. The film focuses on the lives and personal stories of several people on both sides of the border who attended their commemoration, as dictated by local tradition. The culmination is the chorus of the dead, which is still performed in Bulgaria and Serbia on the first day of Easter in every Wallachian village. They dance with the portraits of deceased loved ones and give away red eggs, treats, and towels. And finally, everyone joins in the dance for the living. Through the stories of the local people, we will look into some ideas about the possible connections between the living and the dead. How can one soften one's fear of death, what is important to accomplish in one's life, and if there is a way to weaken the pain of separation?


The jury awarded the film for its exciting immersion into the folk notions of the connection between generations and the memory of the Family, as embodied in the memorial ritual.


Special mention in the category National Short Film (Bulgaria)


Chergi Weavers, dir. Elena Stoycheva

A young designer arrives in a small Bulgarian village, where most inhabitants left are elderly women. She convinces the grannies to weave a new model of a traditional carpet-runner, called “chergi”. But as they start to assemble an old weaving loom, they find out that parts are missing. Now the women have to restore old knowledge and the missing links between themselves.

This work was marked as a creative project that inspires the restoration of Bulgarian cultural traditions.


The second Special mention was given to Vladimir Andonov, the director of the films Ask and Khair (Benevolence), for his talent in uncovering and revealing powerful personal stories.


It was a warm and cozy evening, which our Bulgarian friends, film festival participants, and Ukrainians who have found refuge in Bulgaria shared with us. We could personally greet only two Bulgarian directors, Vladimir Andonov and Elena Stoicheva, who came to the event, and contacted the winner in the National Feature Film (Ukraine) category, director Pavel Peleshko, via Zoom. The ceremony ended with all the guests singing the symbolic song “Chervona Kalyna” in Ukrainian and Bulgarian.

The winners of the feature and short film categories received a monetary prize of 800 euros (Feature Film Category) and 200 euros (Short Film Category) from our permanent sponsor and partner, the MEGOGO vod platform. All the participants received a festival award in the form of a brick with the inscription Heroes among us. They were made for us by Uliana Dzhyhryniuk and Ruslan Druk. Ruslan is a military man who has been taking a vacation for the second year in a row to take part in their creation.


We remind you that this year's screenings became possible thanks to the support of our partners, including: Ferry Complex Orlivka LTD, the Embassy of Ukraine in Bulgaria, the Executive Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, the Center for Bessarabian Bulgarians in Bulgaria, the "Communitas" Foundation, the "My Country" Foundation, tthe "Manol Peikov and Friends" Foundation, the "Mati Ukraine" Association, the National Film Center of Bulgaria, Power Film Production, the Association of Creative Individuals "OKO", the public broadcaster UA: Suspilne, the Bolhrad City Council, Neterra TV, Netpeak Group, as well as conscious representatives of the Bulgarian society who supported our crowdfunding campaign.


Soon we will announce the dates of the next, anniversary, edition of the OKO. Despite all the hardships and obstacles, the festival continues to fight for its main mission: to open the world to Ukraine, and Bulgaria and Ukraine and Bulgaria to the world!

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