A Million Miles Away nabs Grand Prix at Encounters 2014

The 20th edition of the Encounters Short and Animation Festival has ended its celebratory edition with Jennifer Reeder’s A Million Miles Away taking the top prize at the festival.

Reeder’s film is a complex and beguiling piece of work that infuse the 80s aesthetic of US teen films with a bent of surrealism. Beginning with various small vignettes in the lives of a group of US teenagers the film segues into a middle-aged teacher writing in her diary (with her stylised scribblings mirroring the text speak of her teenage counterparts). Soon the girls arrive in her class for choir practice. As they sing a cover of the Judas Priest song “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” a moment of transcendence occurs and the two generations of women reach a new understanding of each other.

The film is something of a slow-burner taking it’s time to bring many disparate elements together. Some stylised moments – such as text conversations appearing on screen – make the film initially seem rather distancing. This is echoed in the way the teens talk about their lives and the teacher writes about her sexual desire as it straddles the line between realism and the theatrical. But it’s the moment when “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” is beautifully sung that everything comes together. The absurdity of such a song been given a choral treatment soon gives way to a true moment of the sublime and the following encounter in which the girls and their teacher connect is studded with both humour and pathos.

A film about female coming-of-age and understanding one’s present, A Million Miles Away is a film in which the sum of its parts makes a greater whole. It’s an affecting work - a film that sticks in the mind long after it has finished – but it also revels in uncertainty and the unknown

At almost 30 minutes (longish for a short) its festival run may not be as strong as the film deserves (though the Encounters win makes it eligible for Academy Award consideration), but its mixture of strangeness and earnest humanity make the film a memorable one.

The Animated Grand Prix went to Argentinian film Padrewhich was described as ‘a powerful and poignant film which channels the spirit of Argentina’s missing to the world’s consciousness through subtle and haunting performance’. The animation jury also gave a special mention to Chris Landreth for his short film Subconscious Password, which ‘succeeds using a fascinating & original visual language in a story full of humour and sophistication to perfectly deliver the subconscious experience.’

The European Film Academy Nomination was awarded to The Chicken, Directed by Una Gumjak, ‘ a moving, brilliantly executed film, featuring a great performance from a child actor and a reminder of the toll that war takes on ordinary people struggling to survive’. Through the Hawthorn was nominated for the Cartoon d’Or for ‘its sensitive and intelligent presentation of a family dealing with mental illness presented through a mesmerising triptych.’

Bafta Award winning British Director Mickey Please won the Channel 4 Best of British Animation Award for Marilyn Myller, ‘a flawless stop motion animation which plunges the audience into the depths of artistic self-depreciation.’ Another BAFTA Award winner Gaëlle Denis won the Channel 4 Best of British Short Film Award with Crocodile, ‘a characteristically British film in its unexpected changes of tone and the juxtaposition of humour and tragedy.’

The Animation Jury consisted of Yoni Goodman (Animation Director), Iain Gardner (Director McLaren 2014, Programmer Edinburgh International Film Festival) and Tamaki Okamoto (Distributor and Producer). The Live Action jury consisted of Daniel Ebner (Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Vienna Independent Shorts), Alison Sterling (Film Producer) and Zita Carvalhosa (Festival Director and Film Producer)


The full list of winners is:


Encounters Animated Grand Prix: Padre/Father by Santiago 'Bou' Grasso (Argentina)

Grand Prix Special Mention: Subconscious Password by Chris Landreth (Canada)

Encounters Brief Grand Prix: A Million Miles Away by Jennifer Reeder (US)

British Council 20:20 Hitchcock Award: Man in my life by Darya Belkina (Kazakhstan)

Channel 4 Best of British Animation Award: Marilyn Miller by Mikey Please (UK)

Channel 4 Best of British Short Film Award: Crocodile by Gaëlle Denis (UK)

European Film Academy Nomination: The Chicken by Una Gunjak (Germany/Croatia)

Cartoon D’Or Nomination: Through the Hawthorn by Anna Benner, Gemma Burditt and Pia Borg (UK)

UWE European New Talent Animation Award: The Dewberry Empire by Christian Schlaeffer (UK)

UWE European New Talent Short Film Award: Patterns by Miklos Keleti (Belgium)


Children’s Award: The Planets by Andy Martin (UK)

Encounter’s Audience Award: Drive Home by Jess Cope (UK)

Music Video Award: All the Same (tout les memes) by Henry Scholfield (Belgium)

Documentary Award: Notes on Blindness by Peter Middleton and James Spinney (UK)

2014 DepicT! Awards

DepicT!’14 Award: Carpark by Ant Blades, (UK)

DepicT! RPS Cinematography Award: The Peace of Wild Things by Adam DJ Laity, (UK)

DepicT!’14 Random Acts Special Mention: The Collector by Stas Santimov (Ukraine)

DepicT!’14 British Special Mention: Nati by Daniel Chisholm (UK)

DepicT!’14 Shooting People Audience Award: Nati by Daniel Chisholm (UK)

23 September 2014, by Laurence Boyce