Ainara Vera’s “Polaris” wins the Golden Gentian for Best Film at the 71st Trento Film Festival

Published 06/05/2023

The Spanish director’s film tells the story of Hayat, a skipper who chooses the ice of the far north to escape the trauma of her childhood, and of the difficult process of rebuilding her life and recovering hope.

The CAI Golden Gentian for the best film on mountaineering, mountain people and life in the mountains goes to the American film An Accidental Life; the “City of Bolzano” Golden Gentian for the best film on exploration or adventure goes to Werner Herzog’s The Fire Within: A Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft; Silver Gentians are awarded to the short animated film Ice Merchants, for the best technical-artistic contribution, and Churchill, Polar Bear Town as the best short film.
The Jury Prize goes to Forêts by the Canadian filmmaker Simon Plouffe.

From flight to the search for a new future at personal and family level: the story of Hayat, a skipper who has chosen the ice of the far north to escape from her memories of the past, struck a chord with the international jury at the 71st Trento Film Festival, which has awarded Ainara Vera’s film Polaris the “Grand Prix City of Trento Golden Gentian for Best Film” «for the powerful use of cinematic language in telling with empathy the story of two women navigating their own destiny». Hayat is a skilled seafarer who sails across the Arctic, navigating far away from people and her troubled youth in France. But when her little sister Leila gives birth to a baby girl Inaya, the promise of new beginnings is on the horizon. We witness how the sisters’ worlds are turned upside down, each going on a deeply personal journey, guided by the Northern Star to overturn their family’s fate.

«We can recognise and see ourselves reflected individually and collectively in Hayat’s process of rebuilding her life and recovering hope: it is a demonstration that the downward spiral that would sometimes appear to swallow up everything, in private life as in society, can be interrupted, and that the force of life can overcome even the greatest difficulties», commented the President Mauro Leveghi. «In an edition marked by a record number of female directors in the competition, awarding the Grand Prix to a film featuring women on both sides of the camera ensures that this edition of the Festival concludes in a way that is absolutely coherent with its principles and values».

The Golden Gentian for the best film on mountaineering, mountain people and life in the mountains – the Club Alpino Italiano Prize – goes to An Accidental Life by Henna Taylor (USA/2022/86′), «for the intense honesty that the viewer perceives from both the director and the protagonist, and for making the film both an expression and depiction of the power of friendship». Special mention has been awarded to Plai. A Mountain Path by Eva Dzhyshyashvili (Ukraine/2022/75’) «for the empathetic depiction of a rural family for whom the war is both a distant echo and a challenging physical reality ».

«The CAI Golden Gentian prizewinning film is a clear example of how the mountains can represent not just a natural environment to be explored, visited and respected, but also a place for rebirth, where it is possible to acquire full awareness of one’s abilities and limitations, both old and new. On the footpaths and rockfaces one can appreciate the beauty of what life has to offer, even when everything seems lost», stated the General President of CAI – Club Alpino Otaliano, Antonio Montani.

The Golden Gentian for the best film on exploration or adventure – “City of Bolzano” Prize has been awarded to Werner Herzog’s The Fire Within: A Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft (United Kingdom, Switzerland, USA, France/2022/84′) «for the heartfelt tribute to two very special lives of insatiable and visionary explorers and for magnifying their work as filmmakers»: the film by Herzog – a filmmaker who is part of Trento Film Festival’s history, present many times in the programme and awarded the Grand Prix of the International Alliance for Mountain Films in Trento in 2020 – celebrates the memory of the famous couple of French vulcanologists from a new point of view, working with spectacular archive footage.

«For creating an extremely poetic aesthetic universe and for the deeply original look at climate change» the Silver Gentian for best technical–artistic contribution has been awarded to João Gonzalez’ Ice Merchants (Portugal, France, United Kingdom/2022/14′).

The Silver Gentian for best short film goes instead to Churchill, Polar Bear Town by Annabelle Amoros (France/2021/37′) «for the sharp ironic take on the difficult and at times surreal cohabitation of human and animals at the frontier of the climate crisis».

Lastly, the Jury Prize has been awarded to Simon Plouffe’s Forêts (Canada/2022/17′), «for the consistency of vision and for creating an immersive and hypnotic cinematic experience».

«We talked at length about dreams when launching this edition of the Festival, and now we can say that our dreams have truly been achieved. Seeing the cinemas, theatres and squares as full as they were before the pandemic has made us understand even more clearly how important it was to hold on during the difficult years», said the Festival’s Director, Luana Bisesti. «We hope we have made our public dream thanks to the content of the film programme and with the many events for all ages that have enlivened and brightened the city of Trento for ten days. The smiles of adults and children and their enthusiasm when participating in the Festival’s activities lead us to hope that we have succeeded».

«I am happy that the Grand Prix has gone to a film like Polaris, which perfectly represents an edition that has focused on women, as directors and protagonists, and also reflects the Festival’s process of growth» concluded Sergio Fant, responsible for the film programme. «The director Ainara Vera and her protagonist Hayat Mokhenache met during filming of the documentary closing the 2019 edition, Aquarela by Victor Kossakovsky, who in his turn won the Golden Gentian in 2012 with ¡Vivan Las Antipodas! We also find two courageous women on both sides of the camera in An Accidental Life, while with The Fire Within the master filmmaker Werner Herzog, spirit guide for our festival, is finally the recipient of an official prize. Lastly, by also choosing to award prizes to three short works, the jury has recognised the variety of the programme and our exploration of the mountain world, the scope of all our selections».