Montreal film wins top prize at IDFA

EyeSteelFilm's Last Train Home named best feature doc at prestigious Dutch fest

AMSTERDAM — Montreal producer EyeSteelFilm was the big winner at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam this weekend, garnering the VPRO prize for best feature-length film for its latest release, Last Train Home.

The debut film by Lixin Fan, who was associate producer on EyeSteel’s previous Chinese doc success Up the Yangtze, had its European premiere at IDFA — having begun its festival life two weeks earlier as the opening-night feature at Quebec’s RIDM fest.

The prize, which comes with a sculpture and €12,500, was awarded to Fan, who was cited for directing ‘a striking, honest film about a topic that is of relevance to the entire world,’ by a jury including Tribeca creative officer Geoff Gilmore, African docmaker Jean-Marie Teno and Finnish broadcast and print journalist Jenny Westergard.

The film depicts the daily grind and generational challenges encountered by the Zhang family, as the parents struggle to generate enough income in one of China’s industrial cities.

Last Train Home is a tribute to the working man and woman in the factory world. They bear the unbearable, and hope in the hopelessness. They are the true heroes of our times in this troubled world,’ commented Fan, adding he was ‘deeply humbled’ to receive the award.

‘This is like winning the Olympic gold medal. I think this win will help ensure that the film gets shown throughout the world,’ said EyeSteel co-founder Mila Aung-Thwin. International sales are being represented through Catherine Le Clef at CAT&Docs, while KinoSmith is handling Canadian distribution.

Other winners at IDFA included Louie Psihoyos’ activist doc The Cove, which nabbed the audience award.