Award Winners 2021


International Award

Heaven Reaches Down the Earth (dir. Tebogo Malebogo)


The award goes to Heaven Reaches Down the Earth by Tebogo Malebogo for its poetic narration – a narration that’s interwoven with rich symbols, that speak the unspeakable: the homoerotic attraction between the two characters. 

The mountain, the fire, drops of sweat on the face, warm oranges and reds against pale backgrounds of green and blue — all become potent symbols of complex emotions and bodily sensations of the characters exploring their sexuality. 

This exploration is paralleled with an expedition on foot across the mountains. Both wanderers tread an insecure and unmarked path, sometimes inhaling fire sometimes plunging in ice-cold waters.

Confusion and desire, hesitance and erotic attraction are portrayed powerfully, and the surreal landscapes of mountains play a significant role to establish this subtle but deeply expressive visual language. Ultimately, with its blend of realistic imagery with dream-like sights, sounds, and symbols, the film enacts the literary tradition of magical realism.


National Award

Dear Chaemin (dir. Cyan Bae)


With animation, narrative films and experimental films, this year’s National Award Competition at Leiden Shorts demonstrated the spectrum of possibilities that cinema has to offer and how Dutch and Netherlands-based artists and filmmakers are making the most of it. While we enjoyed diving into all films in the line-up, our decision on which film to grant the National Award was unanimous. 

Exploring the themes of gender, identity and surveillance, this film tapped into the tradition of letter films but also offered something new to it, through its unique three-channel and vertical screen format. While it addressed the current pandemic with remarkable precision and originality, what struck and moved us was the generosity of the filmmaker for giving voice to her inner thoughts in such a direct, open manner.

…the winner of this year’s Leiden Shorts National Award Competition is Dear Chaemin by Cyan Bae. Congratulations!

Student Award

Filipiñana (dir. Rafael Manuel)


First of all, we would like to congratulate the entire programming team and the selection committee of the Leiden Shorts festival for the excellent choice of all the selected films, which we enjoyed watching. We are honored to have been chosen as a jury this year. We would also like to congratulate all the filmmakers who had their films selected in the student competition. However, we had to make a choice among the excellent selection to reward two films.

We want to reward an intimate, bittersweet but outspoken travel journal on a return visit to the home country the filmmaker left so long ago she has a hard time reconciling with her home base’s unchanged beliefs and views. The director manages to expose, with wit, creativity and innovative storytelling, the disconnect between the life left behind and the new one abroad. For these reasons, we want to give a Special mention to I Don’t Feel At Home Anywhere Anymore by Viv Li.

We would like to give the award to a very powerful film that manages to show narratively and visually class divisions. The director seems to be in full control of his cinematic language, which results in a confident and well-balanced short film that shows societal inequality translated to the microcosm of a luxurious golf course. It’s an impressive work that stirs interest in his first feature film. For all these reasons, we want to reward Filipiñana by Rafael Manuel with the Student Award.

Audience Award

White Eye (dir. Tomer Shushan)


Out of over 100 films in our official selection, our audience voted for their favourite films all throughout the festival. The public showed their variety of tastes through the choice of their favourite film. In the end, the following three films were picked as the audience’s favourite: 1). White Eye, 2). Alive and 3). Marlon Brando.