The Climax Critics Awards, based out of Madrid, Spain, announced its award winners following an ambitious art “vexhibition,” where filmmakers could engage with exciting international films and alternative new media in virtual “film rooms.” This year, Climax received a sky-high number of submissions, 1,374, from around the globe; 922 creative projects were rejected.
For its winners and nominees, Climax promises an ultimate promotional package and critical reception, from the way work is treated throughout the vexhibition to extensive press coverage with the industry’s most notable and career-advancing film magazines and journals. Climax’s ongoing dialogue and collaboration with renowned film journalists, scholars and critics set it apart as a promising virtual awards event and platform akin to the Critics Choice Association Awards. Among its guest film critics, collaborators and experts in the field are Raúl Asensio Díez, the festival’s director of communications; documentarian Ilán Shats Yudilevich; Spanish creative designer Francisco París Fernández; multi-award-winning film auteur Sebastián Llinares Sirvent; horror icon Annie Knox; and one of the most renowned and in-demand film critics of the past year, Adrián Pérez Ramírez.
Top Awards: Outstanding Achievement & Contribution To Independent Filmmaking
Climax’s two major awards of the season for Outstanding Achievement & Contribution To Independent Filmmaking went to Jun Wang for The Journey of Murder (China) and Victoria Yakubov for Olma Djon (France). Climax’s artistic and thematic focus lies within narrative silence and minimalism paired with visual storytelling that caresses magic realism, engages in complexity reduction and metaphoric projection, and leads into anti-climactic ambiguity. No better example showcases that focus than The Journey of Murder and Olma Djon.
Best Picture Contenders
The winners of the season are truly international, led by:
– Jun Wang’s The Journey of Murder (China) landing 6 Climax award wins (for Best Picture, Best Feature Film, Best Drama, Best Directing, Best Lead Actress, Best Original Score) and 3 award nominations (Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing)
– Brad Katzen’s The Domestic (South Africa) with 3 Climax award wins (Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & SFX) and 5 award nominations (Best Feature Film, Best Directing, Best Cinematography, Best Ensemble Cast, Best Editing)
– Jim Zou’s Naked Island (China) with 3 Climax award wins (Best Medium-Length Film, Best Queer Emerging Filmmaker Award) and 4 award nominations (Best Directorial Debut, Best Young Filmmaker, Best Lead Actress, Best Student Film)
– Victoria Yakubov’s Olma Djon (France) with 2 Climax award wins (Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress) and 7 award nominations
– Anastasiya Yevchenko’s If We Had Tomorrow (Ukraine), Alan Chung-An’s Part Forever (Taiwan) and Nicholas Tory’s Lifeblood (Australia) with 2 Climax award wins and 7 award nominations
– Otis Birdy’s Jiyan: La Vie (Switzerland) with 2 Climax award wins (Best Zero/Low-Budget Film, Best Lead Actor), 6 award nominations and 1 semi-finalist nomination
– Leandro Cordova’s Club Internacional Aguerridos “C.I.A.” (Mexico) 6th Place with 2 Climax award wins (Best Cult, Best Ensemble Cast), 5 award nominations and 1 semi-finalist nomination
– Daniel Pradilla De Bedout’s Pongamos Que Hablo De Ti (Spain) and Beboon Bahk’s 후각 “Olfaction” (Republic of Korea) with 2 Climax award wins and 6 award nominations.
The other Best Picture nominees: Fernando Bonelli’s La Tierra Llamando A Ana “Planet Earth Calling To Ana” (Spain) with 1 Climax award win, 7 award nominations and 1 semi-finalist nomination; Kim Saarinen & P.J. Piippo’s Oja “The Ditch” (Finland) with 6 Climax award nominations; and Matthias Von Braun’s Devoid (UK) with 1 Climax award win and 6 award nominations.
Honorable Mentions & Achievements
– The Journey of Murder (China) from Jun Wang
Some films stay with you; they are an arrow straight to the heart that even when pulled out leave a trace, and that’s The Journey of Murder. Jun Wang’s silent odyssey excavates for humanity’s gutter truth through the power of narrative silence and magic realism, this is one of the rawest stories we’ve ever seen depicted onscreen and simply one of the best films of the year.
– “Perfect Storm” (New Zealand) from Morag Brownlie
Through naturalistic photography, Morag Brownlie transports us to breathtaking landscapes capable of making us feel inexhaustible solitude, astutely conveying dream-like sensations and the smallness of man in the immensity of the natural world, in shots reminiscent of the Oscar-winning The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, 2021). A triumph.
– “Kenya’s Symphony” (USA) from Carlos Douglas Jr.
“Kenya’s Symphony” is a fun animated short film that could very well be part of the Pixar universe, an unbelievably tenacious directorial debut where you’ll be enraptured by the magic and power of music.
– Sobre La Muerte “About Death” (Mexico) from Adrián Bodegas
Bodegas offers us a soulful introspective study into humans’ sheer fragility in the face of temporal finitism. A triumph and a film that will undoubtedly be talked about for months, for its philosophical script, masterful character construction and story depth, and performances that elevate it to another level.
– “Combat Nuns: All Or Nothing” (USA) from Rick Williamson
Here it is, the punk comedy of the year starring the talented Dot-Marie Jones and directed by Rick Williamson, who leaves his unique imprint all over this picturesque and delirious short vignette, reminiscent of the unmistakable style and black humor of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill. You won’t stop laughing from beginning to end.
– “Election Night” (USA) from Peter Zerzan
A ravishing minimalist aesthetic, performative prowess and an unexpected plot twist intersect in this formidable socio-political drama reminiscent of the plot of House of Cards (2013-18, Netflix). Peter Zerzan masterfully gets claustrophobically close on the hidden intricacies behind a presidential election where everything can change in a moment.
– Fruitville (Trinidad and Tobago) from Lallan Samaroo and Larry Horrell
If you love cult cinema, you can’t miss the original, surrealist and brave Fruitville, reminiscent of the amusing Sausage Party (2016, Vernon and Tiernan). Directors Lallan Samaroo and Larry Horrell breathe life into their characters through a very personal and daring narratorial style of filmmaking.
– Shots: Eugenics To Pandemics (USA) from John Potash
An engaging and resourceful film that showcases mastery in the classic expository mode of documentary filmmaking, causes intellectual friction from its filmic enunciation, and proves a great exemplar of the canvas’ potential in conveying complex phenomena to potentially massive audiences in a fresh and entertaining way.
– “Shielding Shiela” (UK) from Joyce Grey-Carter
“An actor has to burn inside with an outer ease,” said mythical master Mikhail Chekhov and it’s a famous quote that easily defines Joyce Grey-Carter’s triumph, turning in a raw and sublime performance to remember, but also a spectacular debut as director. A raw story with scenes of great emotional intensity, magnificent direction, and the performance of Joyce Grey-Carter’s career.
– Portales (USA) from Patricia Miller, Michael Miller
An ongoing socio-cultural critique lies underneath this hysterical and light-hearted romantic drama, that comprises masterful dialogue; never has townsfolk nonsensical chattery being so well executed for the screen, not to mention the conception of such original minor dramas. Beyond Patricia and Michael Miller’s successful world-building, we must commend their character architecture, much of Portales‘ success can largely be attributed to the characters created by the acclaimed and emerging writers. Portales serves an authentic, powerful and original story more than deserving of a screen adaptation.
– Chosen Family (USA) from Dina Gilmore
Chosen Family tells a brilliant and important story about family, love, and acceptance and has a very strong base in its plot and character relations. We hope Chosen Family gets commissioned into a live-action film, Gilmore’s a formidable multi-award-winning writer with a unique style and point of view who we’re dying to get new material from soon to sink our teeth into.
– “The Stones of Rome” (Greece) from Sean Tansey
Some performances transcend that become iconic over time; Sean Tansey offers us a performance that stays with us. Through a minimalist aesthetic, “The Stones of Rome” is a fantastic adaptation, one of the most emblematic texts in history and an interpretative masterclass of the highest calibre.
– Broken Stars (USA) from HanYing Du
Tender whilst electrifying, Broken Stars is a love story that will haunt us, for love is not always easy. HanYing Du’s formidable directorial debut makes him one of independent cinema’s promising new talents and we are looking forward to seeing what he can achieve with time, experience, and more economic resources.
– Cherzoso The Silent Film” (USA) from Tracy Ann Chapel
Luckily, and thanks to brave directors such as Tracy Ann Chapel, we have authentic tributes to the classic cinema of Chaplin, Keaton, or Bowers. Here lies an emotional story of a woman whose present and future conflict, and a minimalist oeuvre where Chapel’s directorial versatility stands out. Beyond her unique imprints in direction and performance, Chapel also composes the film’s soundtrack, showcasing her enormous talent and the great future she has in the world of cinema.
– “Red Light” (USA) from Parker Alexander Meyers
“Red Light” tells the story of an escort (played by the fabulous Arielle Duran) who doesn’t know how to tell her favorite client that she is leaving the business. The film doesn’t take long to detonate and Meyers delivers one of the most heart-breaking twists and turns we can remember in recent years, a film we can’t unhook ourselves from until it’s over. “Red Light” is a raw, brave story with a brutal conflict. Meyers is an enormously talented emerging director we can envision seeing a feature film from in the next few years.
– “One Minute with Billy Dufala” (USA) from Joy Waldinger
Waldinger showcases her incomparable style, versatility, and multi-faceted triple talent in this frenetic and enriching micro-documentary that begs to be longer for its fascinating world-building around the mythical Billy Dufala. Waldinger’s an emerging filmmaker we’ll be talking about a lot in the coming years.
– “Why Have I Not Learnt How to Swim?” (USA) from Amir Shah
Shah’s film stands out for its solid performances, strategic handheld cinematography to build tension and raise stakes, as well as hysteric editing which tops off this imperfect and immersive spectatorial experience. Through an experimental style reminiscent of the cult genre, with brushstrokes of masterpieces like Midsommar, Nope or The Witch, we see in Shah raw potential and an emerging filmmaker who, with hard work and determination, soon everybody will be talking about.
– “Entanglement” (Sweden) from Ulrika Sjölin
Sjölin makes one of the most daring proposals of the year, with a script that never ceases to surprise you from start to finish, and whose style is reminiscent of one of Christopher Nolan’s best works, Memento. Maria Forslin’s outstanding performance also stands out. “Entanglement” is a very different film from what we are used to; with Sjölin’s authorial vision omnipresent throughout, in every shot, every scene, every word, and that makes it a most interesting artistic creation since we see reflected in a masterful way the world its director wanted to transmit. A masterclass in cinematographic world-building.
– “We Got This” (USA) from K.Page Valdes
K.Page Stuart Valdes’s directorial talent and tenacity is irrevocable; proof of this is her numerous awards, including being a Semi-Finalist in the Academy Award Nicholl Screenwriting Competition, winning Best Short at the Virginia Film Festival, and second place at the New York Women in Film and Television Festival, one of the most prestigious festivals in the world. And this time, Valdes presents “We Got This,” the third of a series of films that delve into how prejudice and bias infiltrate everyday interactions and intimate relationships in the United States, a recurring theme in the author’s filmography that we can see reflected in her previous works Talking Piece and Full Service, both available on Amazon Prime and whose viewing we fervently recommend. With the very talented Jessica Frances Dukes, who we already saw shining in the acclaimed series Ozark with her role as May Miller, and the experienced Wayne Maugans, who gives us one of the best performances of his prestigious career; “We Got This: is a film not to be missed; its acclaimed director’s narrative talent and strong story and performances serve us one of the year’s most exciting films.
– Digital Affairs (USA) from Elor De Mayo
The awe-inspiring thing about Digital Affairs is that it makes you shudder, its multifaceted director Elor De Mayo achieves a strong, well-crafted story, excellent character architecture, and one of the best performances of the year, her very own. De Mayo has tremendous potential as a filmmaker, and we can’t wait to see more.
– “I Had an Affair, Or Did I?” (USA) from Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
“I Had An Affair, Or Did I?” surpasses its goal of entertaining us with its excellent script and shining ensemble cast. The dialogue has a cadence and naturalness to it that helps the verisimilitude of the narration, which is not surprising knowing Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein’s background as a psychologist for more than 30 years and a successful novelist with Secrets, Diary of a Gutsy Teen or Conflict and a Bit of Magic. It’s awe inspiring to see her now beginning a successful career in cinema.