Sheffield DocFest Awards Top Prizes To ‘At The Door Of The House, Who Will Come Knocking,’ ‘The Boy And The Suit Of Lights,’ ‘No Other Land’

The Grand Jury Prize for International Competition at Sheffield DocFest has gone to At the Door of the House, Who Will Come Knocking, the feature directorial debut of Maja Novaković, a filmmaker from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

A clearly overwhelmed Novaković accepted the award at a ceremony Sunday evening that also saw The Boy and the Suit of Lights and No Other Land – the winner of the top prize for documentary at the Berlin Film Festival – also claim awards. Scroll for the full list of winners.

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“Thank you [to] my small but very brave film crew,” Novaković said, holding back tears. “I don’t know what to say. I’m so happy and thrilled and, must admit, confused. I need a brandy.”

Director Maja Novaković accepts the Grand Jury Prize for International Competition at Sheffield DocFest.
Director Maja Novaković accepts the Grand Jury Prize for International Competition at Sheffield DocFest.

Deadline exclusively premiered the trailer of the film earlier this month. At the Door of the House, Who Will Come Knocking centers on an aging man named Emin, and his equine companion — “his only true confidant.”

In their citation, jurors said, “With cinematic excellence the director slowly reveals a story of isolation and trauma in a landscape of beauty yet deep historical scars. An emerging director to watch.”

The Boy and the Suit of Lights won the Grand Jury Award for the International First Feature. The film directed by Inma De Reyes revolves around Borja, a boy growing up in a small town in Spain who is encouraged by his grandfather to pursue bullfighting.

“I could see in young Borja’s expressive eyes that he felt a sense of pressure from his family that did not match well with his personality,” De Reyes has written. “I have seen him grow into a young adult in front of the camera. I have felt every moment as he has, knowing that his purpose was given to him from birth, and yet his heart was struggling to make sense of the world with the love for his mother and younger brother Erik. In my film, I wanted to reflect the reality as Borja felt it, capturing the gentle passing of time in a timeless coming-of-age story.”

Basel Adra in 'No Other Land'
Basel Adra in ‘No Other Land’

The festival’s Tim Hetherington Award — named for the late British photojournalist who was killed while covering the civil war in Libya – went to No Other Land, a film that has already racked up a dozen awards internationally beginning with its world premiere at the Berlinale.

The Palestinian-Israeli filmmaking collective of Yuval Abraham, Basel Adra, Hamdan Ballal, and Rachel Szor directed the documentary which offers a visceral depiction of life for Palestinian villagers in the rural Masafer Yatta area of the occupied West Bank. Basel Adra, his family and other villagers attempt to hold onto their dignity and their homes in the face of a campaign by the Israeli army to seize their land and destroy their dwellings, purportedly to use the area for military training.

In addition to winning two awards at the Berlinale, No Other Land won the top prize for documentary at Millennium Docs Against Gravity in Poland, and audience awards at CPH:DOX in Copenhagen and Visions du Réel in Switzerland.


Flowers, directed by José Cardoso, won Sheffield DocFest’s Grand Jury Award for the International Short Film, automatically qualifying the film for Oscar consideration.

Sheffield DocFest, the most prestigious all-documentary festival in the U.K., concludes its 31st edition on Monday. This year, DocFest showcased 48 world premieres, along with numerous international, European, and U.K. premieres.

This is the full list of winners announced on Sunday evening:

2024 Award Winners:

International Competition (Grand Jury Award):

The Grand Jury Award for the International Competition was awarded to At the Door of the House Who Will Come Knocking directed by Maja Novaković (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2024). This Award is Academy Award accredited and honors films that best display strong artistic vision and courageous storytelling.

The Jury were: Heather Haynes (Hot Docs, Director of Festival Programming), Mohamed Saïd Ouma (DocA-Documentary Africa Executive Director), and award-winning filmmaker Havana Marking.

The jury said: “With cinematic excellence the director slowly reveals a story of isolation and trauma in a landscape of beauty yet deep historial scars. An emerging director to watch.”

Special Mention: Mother City dir. Miki Redelinghuys and Pearlie Joubert (South Africa, 2024)

The jury said: “The jury would like to give a special mention to Mother City for the filmmakers bravery, passion and commitment, a story the world needs to know.”

International First Feature Competition (supported by Netflix)

The Grand Jury Award for the International First Feature Competition is presented to The Boy and the Suit of Lights dir. Inma de Reyes (Scotland, UK, 2024). This competition honors the future of non-fiction film and celebrates promising new talent and is supported by Netflix.

The International First Feature Competition jury members were: Liselot Verbugge (CEO, Film Harbour), Kristine Barford (Nordland Pictures founder), Diego Pino Anguita (Executive Director of the Chilean Documentary Corporation).

The jury said “The jury has chosen the winning film for its visually stunning reflection on culture and society, told through the journey of a boy finding his way to manhood. It triggers an inner discussion, challenging our ideas about the modern world versus fading traditions and beliefs.”

Special Mention: Silent Men dir. Duncan Cowles (Scotland, UK, 2024)

The jury said “The jury was impressed by the vulnerable approach to a sensitive subject, told in a fresh, open, even humorous tone.”

International Short Film Competition

The Grand Jury Award for the International Short Film Competition was awarded to Flowers dir. José Cardoso (South Africa, Ecuador, 2024). This Academy Award®, BAFTA and BIFA accredited award honors the best creative approaches in documentaries under 40 minutes.

The International Short Film Competition jury members were: Andy Mundy-Castle (founder of Doc Hearts), Lindsay Poulton (Head of Documentaries at The Guardian), and Moustapha Sawadogo (Head of the Yennenga Workshops at the Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou – FESPACO).

The jury said As a jury we enjoyed this distinct and daring film, which had a strong sense of purpose and style. The director conveyed a clear and urgent sense of storytelling. The jury left feeling inspired and thoughtful.”

Special Mention: Dancing Palestine dir. Lamees Almakkawy (United Kingdom, 2024)

The jury said The film provided a new and fresh perspective on Palestine and its culture, and the jury appreciated its ambition.”

Tim Hetherington Award (presented in association with Dogwoof)

The Tim Hetherington Award was presented to No Other Land, dir. Basel Adra, Yuval Abraham, Rachel Szor, Hamdan Ballal (Palestine, Norway, 2024 ). The award recognises a film and filmmaker that best reflects the legacy of photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington and is presented in association with Dogwoof.

Jurors for the Tim Hetherington Award were: Joan Parsons (Head of Culture and Arts for Queen’s University Belfast), award-winning producer Toni Kamau and founder of the Kenyan based “We Are Not the Machine”, and Mariia Tsypiashchuk (Ukrainian attorney-at-law, partnerships manager of the Ukraine War Archive).

The Jury said: “Two soldiers, armed and masked, violently pin down an unarmed man as a voice shouts “I’m filming you”. This is not the only time that these words are uttered. We hear them again as a squadron of soldiers drag the journalist and filmmaker to the ground, ripping him away from his camera.

Journalistic docs witness what we must not forget, erase or rewrite.

This is a powerful collaboration amongst journalists from opposite sides of a political gulf, who come together to tell the story of the continued destruction of Masafer Yatta in Palestine.“

International Virtual Reality Competition

The International Virtual Reality Competition honors the best virtual reality non-fiction work. The award was presented to Perinatal Dreaming. Understanding Country, artistsMarianne Wobcke, Volker Keuchelmeister, Lucia Barrera(Australia, 2023).

Jurors for the Virtual Reality Award were: Abby Sun (International Documentary Association’s Director of Artist Programs), John O’Shea (Creative Director of the National Videogame Museum), and director and programmer Zinha Morgan-Bennett.

The Jury said: “Combining cultural, ancestral and embodied knowledge, this work situates its audience in visual and sonic landscapes that are full, complex and spatial. For making the mundane magical, and channelling a full realisation of both the opportunities and limitations of the VR medium, the award goes to Perinatal Dreaming. Understanding Country!”

Youth Jury Award

The Youth Jury Award was presented to HAIYU – Rebel Singer Mariem Hassan and the Struggle for a Free Western Sahara dir. Alex Veitch, Brahim B. Ali, Mohamedsalem Uered, Anna Klara Åhrén (Sweden, Western Sahara, 2024) by five of the UK’s most passionate young documentary lovers to celebrate non-fiction cinema.

The Youth Jury were: Luke Dobson, Rose Grover, Arabella Ladiero, Mikey Pugh, and Sakura Singh Corke. They curated a selection of six films considered in a mentored deliberation.

The Jury said: “As the youth jurors, we’ve been thinking about where we find hope in this climate of uncertainty, division and fear for the future. The film we have chosen as our winner shines hope on an incredible story despite the circumstances in Western Sahara. The film displays music as a source of resistance and refuge for the Saharawi people. The film challenges the still very present view of women of colour as oppressed figures. By depicting an authentic representation of Mariem Hussain, the film tells a story beyond prejudice and amplifies the need to free all occupied states.”

Special Mention: Life on the Edge dir. Johnny Langenheim, Sebastian Feehan (Greenland, United Kingdom)

The Jury said: “We commend its incredible team for championing and preserving indigenous stories, and actively working towards the destigmatisation of the suicide and mental health struggles of Greenland.”

2024 Pitch Session Winners:

Three pitch sessions took place during the festival for selected emerging directors to pitch their non-fiction projects to panels of judges.

The Whickers Pitch,Film & TV Funding Award 2024 with a prize of £100,000 went to Camels of the Sea, dir. Vikram Singh (India); the development prize of £20,000 went to Replica, dir. Chouwa Liang (China).

The award recognises original and innovative documentary, and uses the generous legacy of its namesake, pioneering broadcaster Alan Whicker, to support emerging, international directors working on their first feature-length documentaries.

The judging panel were: Jane Mote (The Whickers), Raul Niño Zambrano (Sheffield DocFest), David Green (Editor and Director), Fozia Khan (Head of Unscripted at Amazon Studios UK), Ibrahim Nash’at (filmmaker and winner of Whickers award 2023) and Robin Smith (Blue Ice Docs Inc).

David Green, Film Director and TV Producer, Whicker’s World, said: “At every stage of The Whickers judging process, I thought the standard was extremely high. I believe it was the highest ever. It was a huge privilege to decide on a winner amongst winners. Alan Whicker would have been intrigued by this process and extremely proud of the outcome. Our winning project is a compelling and warm cinematic film about our relationship with the animal kingdom that touches on critical issues facing the world we live in today.”

The judges were so inspired by Chouwa Liang’s deep dive into the world of A1 boyfriends that they decided to get an AI bot to write the jury citation on their behalf:

“On behalf of the Whickers Development Award Jury, we are thrilled to announce this year’s recipient. This film offers a groundbreaking exploration of AI relationships in China through the lives of three women. It delves into the profound impact of AI companionship, highlighting a significant cultural shift and raising important questions about the future of human relationships in the digital age. The authenticity and depth of the narrative are elevated by the director’s personal connection to the subject.”

Special Mention: Highness and Excellency dir. Sajad Imani (Iran).

The Podcast Pitch first prize (£5000) went to Rewriting the Narrative by Christina Hardinge (UK), and the second prize (£2000) went to Degenerate by Matt Durai (Malaysia).

The winners were chosen for being the most creative and promising pitches, and the prizes were funded by the Whickers foundation.

The  judging panel were: Daniel Clarke (Commissioning Editor Factual, BBC Radio 4), Michelle Martin (Executive Producer, Wondery UK), Lisa Hack (Senior Technical and Associate Lecturer Audio, Goldsmiths).

First Prize: Rewriting the Narrative by Christina Hardinge (UK)

The Jury said: “This project could only be done in audio. The production process is highly original and is hugely well thought through. It has a unique dual function in that it offers therapeutic benefits for the participants as well as making incredible audio.”

Second Prize: Degenerate by Matt Durai (Malaysia)

The Jury said: “This project has massive ambition and comes from a really distinctive voice with a unique reason to make this series. It has a global take on an issue that needs more attention.”

Special Mention: Keening: The Song Before The Stranding by Aoife Glass and Sam Gare (UK/Scotland).

The Jury said the project is a “Beautiful and poetic approach to natural history.”

More about the pitching projects can be found here.

Channel 4 First Cut Pitch saw five short-listed directors present and discuss a 3-minute micro-documentary on the themed brief “The Change”. This was won by Helen Waddell, securing a commission from Channel 4 for their first 60-minute film, and one month of fully-paid development with an indie to support the development of their idea.

The judging panel were: Sacha Mirzoefff (Commissioning Editor, Documentaries and Factual Entertainment, Head of Bristol, Channel 4), Rita Daniels (Commissioning Editor & Editor of First Cut Strand, Documentaries and Factual Entertainment, Channel 4), Luned Tonderai (Series Director), Joseph Bullman (Writer/Director).

Rita Daniels, Editor of the Channel 4 First Cut Strand said, “Helen’s film was uniquely Channel 4. It had heart and humour but also a social message in the centre of the film. I can’t wait to work with Helen on her first 60 minute film.”

Al Jazeera Documentary Channel Co-Production Award

The inaugural Al Jazeera Documentary Channel Co-production award for Sheffield DocFest MeetMarketsupports one project chosen from the MeetMarket with a prize of 15.000USD awarded by the Al Jazeera Documentary Channel.

This was awarded to Kikuyu Land director/producers Andrew H. Brown and Bea Wangondu, producer Mike Morrisroe, and co-producer Joseph Njenga (USA, 2024).

Ahmed Mahfouz Nouh, MD Al Jazeera Documentary Channel, said “This film goes beyond reporting and captivates the essence of being Kenyan. A courageous journalist, who ventures into civil proceedings against the British crown and behind the tea plantation veil, finds out more than just societal issues- insecurities engrained in families emerge too under the carpet.

It honors the bravery needed to look backward even as we search for new paths. It was a tale that had to be shared, and It’s a story that needed to be told and shared with the young generation and it’s our honor to recognise such a bold and impactful work.”

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