A documentary on his best friend’s battle with cancer garnered Jann Gassman Best of the Fest award at the Reel Lives: Cancer Chronicles Film Festival, the first international documentary film festival on cancer. The festival, organized by the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) of Geneva, drew more than 250 entries, which were narrowed down to 33 finalists from 16 countries.
Switzerland’s Mr. Gassman directed Chrigu, which follows his best friend, Christian Zirjen (Chrigu), in his fight to live after a diagnosis of advanced cancer at age 21.
“The medium of film is very powerful, especially in such a complex, personal project,” Mr. Gassman commented in a statement. “Through film, Christian was able to show people what he was really going through and how the disease changed him. It became a kind of helpful self-reflection for him.”
The award for Best Reportage was given to The Truth About Cancer, by U.S. filmmaker Linda Garmon. Ms. Garmon chronicles her quest to understand her husband’s death from cancer, weaving in the stories of three other patients.
By the end of her documentary, Ms. Garman comes to the realization that despite the pervasive American belief that patients can overcome the disease if they simply fight hard enough, survival has more to do with biology than with the will to live. The Best Personal Story award was given to The Art of Living (India), by Sutapa Biswas, a film about a man with laryngeal cancer who nonetheless perseveres in his goal to be a successful painter.
The Best Educational/Organizational Film award was given to The Children of Avenir (Morocco), a film by Bruno Peyronnet about an 11-year-old boy and his mother who are sheltered by a charitable organization during treatment. Finally, the Best Public Service Announcement award was given to the anti-smoking campaign Hookah from Israel.