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April 19, 2021 Comments Off on SIFF 47 Wraps And Gives Awards, Including Acting Prize To Transgender Actress Views: 671 *Resist. Protest. Obstruct. Inform., *Seattle Cinemaland, Arts & Entertainment, Award Worthy, Film, Film Festivals, Queer Film, Seattle International Film Festival, Seattle Transgender Scene, Trans* Arts & Entertainment, Trans* News

SIFF 47 Wraps And Gives Awards, Including Acting Prize To Transgender Actress

Transgender actor Thiessa Woinbackk won acting honors for her leading role in Valentina directed by Cássio Pereira dos Santos at the 47th annual Seattle International Film Festival.

The Seattle International Film Festival (aka SIFF) screens year round but it’s best known for its huge annual film festival one of the largest in the world which traditionally runs for nearly a month from early mid May through early June. Covid-19 shut down the festival last year and this year they came back with a much shorter and strictly online festival which just wrapped up Sunday, April 18th after 11 days of screenings.

And, as is traditional, they awarded prizes including audience voted “Golden Needle Awards” and jury prizes in a large number of categories.

Among the winners at SIFF 47: Brazilian transgender activist and YouTuber Thiessa Woinbackk won the sole award for acting excellence for her leading role in Valentina directed by Cássio Pereira dos Santos. It’s the first film for the actress who has a YouTube channel, Thiessita, with over 770,000 followers, and 35 million views. The film’s plot:

Living her best life in southeastern Brazil’s large, metropolitan center of Uberlândia, trans teen Valentina (newcomer Thiessa Woinbackk in a star-making debut) thrives in the anonymity of a bustling city where she is free to be who she is, surrounded by supportive friends and the fierce, unwavering love of her single mother Marcia (Guta Stresser). When Marcia finds much-needed work in the small town of Estrela do Sul, the pair quickly pull up stakes and relocate to the remote, cloistered community, where attitudes are provincial and anonymity is nearly impossible to come by. With the local high school reticent to recognize Valentina under her social name without her estranged father Renato’s (Rômulo Braga) signature, the sensitive teen still manages to find her place, settling into a warm friendship with schoolmates Julio (Ronaldo Bonafro) and Amanda (Letícia Franco). But when the community keeps coming up with new, often violent ways to block Valentina’s happiness, she realizes that she must make a choice on how her life is to be lived, summoning up reserves of quiet strength in this warm, achingly real feature debut from writer/director Cássio Pereira dos Santos, who joins a powerful generation of Brazilian filmmakers notable for pushing the envelope on representations of sexuality and identity in cinema.

Valentina will also screen at the Translations Film Festival May 6-9, 2021. Tickets for those online screenings are HERE!!

And, the other winners:


SIFF celebrates its films and filmmakers with the Golden Space Needle Audience Awards. Selected by Festival audiences, awards are given in four categories: Best Film, Best Documentary, Best Short Film, and the Lena Sharpe Award for Persistence of Vision. This year, over 10,000 votes were cast.


There Is No Evil | dir: Mohammad Rasoulof (Germany/Czech Republic/ Iran)
First runner-up: Under the Open Sky | dir. Miwa Nishikawa (Japan)
Second runner-up: Riders of Justice | dir. Anders Thomas Jensen (Denmark)
Third runner-up: Potato Dreams of America | dir. Wes Hurley (USA)
Fourth runner-up: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit | dir. Caroline Link (Germany)


Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America | dir. Sarah Kunstler, Emily Kunstler (USA)
First runner-up: Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street | dir. Marilyn Agrelo (USA)
Second runner-up: Youth v Gov | dir. Christi Cooper (USA/New Zealand)
Third runner-up: Writing With Fire | dir. Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh (India)
Fourth runner-up: Little Girl | dir. Sébastien Lifshitz (France)


My Neighbor, Miguel | dir. Danny Navarro (USA)
First runner-up: Pluck | dir. Kirsty Griffin (Ngati Porou, Ngati Awa), Viv Kernick (New Zealand)
Second runner-up: Rogue | dir: Lina Larson (USA)
Third runner-up: Ethereal (Ka tatishtipatakanit) | dir: Isabelle Kanapé (Innu) (Canada)
Fourth runner-up: Intermission (Entracte) | dir: Anthony Lemaître (France)


Under the Open Sky |dir. Miwa Nishikawa (Japan)

This award is given to the female director’s film that receives the most votes in public balloting at the Festival. Lena Sharpe was co-founder and managing director of Seattle’s Festival of Films by Women Directors and a KCTS-TV associate who died in a plane crash while on assignment. SIFF created this Award as a tribute to her efforts in bringing the work of women filmmakers to prominence.

And, the juried winners:


SIFF confers five juried competition awards: Official Competition (FIPRESCI Prize), Ibero-American Competition, New Directors Competition, New American Cinema Competition, and Documentary Competition. The winners in each juried competition receive $2,500 in cash.


The SIFF Official Competition is juried by a team of international industry members, and are selected by SIFF programmers for their cinematic excellence. The jury was comprised of members of the FIPRESCI: Andrés Nazarala (Chile), Jim Slotek (Canada), Alexander Zwart (the Netherlands).


Little Girl | dir. Sébastien Lifshitz (France)

Jury Statement: What all these movies had in common were their universal themes. Every one of them has a story that has to be told. But we were unanimous about our winner: one of the most cinematic documentaries we have ever encountered, a film so intimate and personal, it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s not a scripted drama with gifted actors giving transcendent performances. Our winner is—in our opinion—the most current and relevant film we screened. It’s not only a film, but a plea for understanding. As transgender people announce themselves, the question of when their status should be confirmed is controversial to some. It seems sensible that self-realization is easier the earlier it occurs. But opponents argue that children aren’t mature enough to have such self-awareness.

In this film eight-year-old Sasha makes her own case, simply by being herself. We are proud to present the Official Competition Grand Jury Prize and FIPRESCI Award to Sébastien Lifshitz for Little Girl.

2021 Entries:

Downstream to Kinshasa | dir .Dieudo Hamadi (Democratic Republic of Congo/France/Belgium)
Goddess of the Fireflies | dir. Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette [Canada (Québec)]
Little Girl | dir. Sébastien Lifshitz (France)
Sanremo | dir. Miroslav Mandić (Slovenia/Italy)
There Is No Evil | dir. Mohammad Rasoulof (Germany/Czech Republic/Iran)
Under the Open Sky | dir. Miwa Nishikawa (Japan)
When I’m Done Dying | dir. Nisan Dağ (Turkey/Germany)


The SIFF Ibero-American Competition aims to highlight the strength, creativity, and influence of storytelling in the region. The Ibero-American Competition is for films having their Seattle premiere during the Festival and without US distribution. The jury was comprised of: Alvaro Delgado Aparicio (director Retablo), Paul Hudson (Outsider Pictures), and Claudia Puig (film critic/Senior Programmer AFI Fest).


Fly So Far (Nuestra libertad) | dir. Celina Escher (El Salvador/Sweden)

Jury Statement: For a compelling documentary focused on the efforts of 17 El Salvadoran women imprisoned for decades for terminated pregnancies, deemed “aggravated homicides” under El Salvadoran law. Led by Teodora Vasquez—sentenced to 30 years for a miscarriage after being mugged—the women unite and fuel a movement for reproductive rights chronicled here with stirring emotion. We proudly award the Grand Jury Prize to Fly So Far, directed by Celina Escher, for its deeply moving and visually stunning cinematic testament to indomitable courage.


The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet (El perro que no calla) | dir. Ana Katz (Argentina)

Jury Statement: For its freshness, its innovative approach to film-making and its originality (and prescience) in storytelling, a Special Jury Mention goes to The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet by Ana Katz.


Valentina | dir. Cássio Pereira dos Santos (Brazil)

Jury Statement: For doing justice to her complex character by finding the best way forward without sacrificing one’s essence, and a heartfelt performance that will stay with the audience all the way, the Special Jury Prize for Outstanding Acting goes to Thiessa Woinbackk for the film Valentina

2021 Entries:

Criollo | dir. Pablo Banchero (Uruguay)
Fly So Far | dir. Celina Escher (El Salvador/Sweden)
Nudo Mixteco | dir. Ángeles Cruz (Mexico)
Rebel Objects | dir. Carolina Arias Ortiz (Costa Rica/Colombia)
The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet | dir. Ana Katz (Argentina)
The Pink Cloud | dir. Iuli Gerbase (Brazil)
The Song of the Butterflies | dir. Núria Frigola Torrent (Peru)
Valentina | dir. Cássio Pereira dos Santos (Brazil)


Festival programmers selected seven films remarkable for their original concept, striking style, and overall excellence. To be eligible, a film must be a director’s first or second feature and without US distribution at the time of selection. The jury was comprised of: Pierre Menahem (Still Moving), Ioana Stais (Heretic Outreach), and Chris Wells (MUBI).


This Is My Desire (Eyimofe) | dir. Arie Esiri, Chuko Esiri (Nigeria)

Jury Statement: We’re pleased to give the SIFF New Directors Grand Jury Prize to Eyimofe/This Is My Desire. This was a quick and unanimous decision for our jury. We agreed that from the very first shot, we knew this was a very special film. We couldn’t believe this was a debut feature, given the maturity of its patient style, its gorgeous cinematography, the uniform strength of its performances. We found Eyimofe a deeply moving, richly textured portrait of life in Lagos, Nigeria, and hope this prize gives the film a greater chance to be seen by audiences around the world.

Congratulations to Arie Esiri and Chuko Esiri, and thank you for sharing this film with us and the world.

2021 Entries

Beans | dir. Tracey Deer (Canada)
Bebia, à mon seul désir | dir. Juja Dobrachkous (Georgia/United Kingdom)
Charter | dir. Amanda Kernell (Sweden)
The Salt In Our Waters | dir. Rezwan Shahriar Sumit (Bangladesh/France)
This Is My Desire | dir. Arie Esiri, Chuko Esiri (Nigeria)
This Town | dir. David White (New Zealand)
Wisdom Tooth | dir. Liang MING (China)


Festival programmers select eight films without US distribution at the time of selection that are sure to delight audiences looking to explore the exciting vanguard of New American Cinema to compete for Best New American Film. The jury was comprised of: Thelma Adams (film critic), Andrew Carlin (Oscilloscope Laboratories), and Garinah Nazarian (FilmRise).


Son of Monarchs | dir. Alexis Gambis (USA/Mexico)

Jury Statement: The Grand Jury Prize goes to Son of Monarchs for an engrossing film about science and spirituality with a fresh image of the Mexican-American experience that dissolves conventional ideas about borders.


Mother’s Milk | dir. Larry Powell, Nick Ducassi, Adriana DeGirolami, Kameron Neal, Bianca LaVerne Jones, Shinelle Azoroh, Alex Ander, John MacDonald, Lelund Durond Thompson (USA)

Jury Statement: The Special Jury Prize goes to Mother’s Milk for challenging the traditional storytelling of cinema from a dynamic collective.

2021 Entries:

I’M FINE (Thanks for Asking) | dir. Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina (USA)
Mother’s Milk | dir. Larry Powell, Adriana DeGirolami, Kameron Neal, Bianca LaVerne Jones, Shinelle Azoroh, Alex Ander, John MacDonald, Lelund Durond Thompson (USA)
Potato Dreams of America | dir. Wes Hurley (USA)
Son of Monarchs | dir. Alexis Gambis (USA/Mexico)
Strawberry Mansion | dir. Albert Birney, Kentucker Audley (USA)
Topside | dir. Celine Held, Logan George (USA)
Waikiki | dir. Christopher Kahunahana (Kanaka Maoli) (USA)
Wyrm | dir. Christopher Winterbauer (USA)


Unscripted and uncut, the world is a resource of unexpected, informative, and altogether exciting storytelling. Documentary filmmakers have for years brought untold stories to life and introduced us to a vast number of fascinating topics we may never have known existed. The jury was comprised of: Opal Bennett (American Documentary / POV), Kristen Fitzpatrick (Field of Vision), and Marie-Therese Guirgis (Play/Action Pictures).

The Earth is Blue as an Orange.


The Earth is Blue as an Orange | dir. Iryna Tsilyk (Ukraine/Lithuania)

Jury Statement: For it’s uniquely vivid and poetic lens into the improbable conditions of everyday life for one family in conflict, the jury is so pleased to award the Grand Jury Prize to Irina Tsilyk for The Earth is Blue as an Orange. Tsilyk captures just how one can find the light shining through the cracks if you look for it. 


Writing With Fire | dir. Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh (India)

Jury Statement: The Jury gives a Special Jury Prize to Writing With Fire by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh. The filmmakers not only tell a gripping and inspiring story of extraordinary women but they do so with cinematic elegance, palpable respect, and narrative sophistication. We hope that the remarkable story of “Khabar Lahariya” will be seen far and wide.

2021 Entries:

Captains of Zaatari | dir. Ali El Arabi (Egypt)
Chuck Connelly: Into the Light | dir. Benjamin Schwartz (USA)
Faya Dayi | dir. Jessica Beshir (Ethiopia/USA/Qatar)
The Earth is Blue as an Orange | dir. Iryna Tsilyk (Ukraine/Lithuania)
The Return: Life After ISIS | dir. Alba Sotorra Clua (Spain/United Kingdom)
Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America | dir. Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler (USA)
Writing With Fire | dir. Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh (India)

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