Established as the IAFOR Open Film Competition in 2012, this annual competition has shifted in focus with the launch of the IAFOR Documentary Film Award in 2014. Documentary film is strongly in line with The International Academic Forum’s vision as an interdisciplinary academic think tank that promotes international and intercultural discussion and exchange.

The IAFOR Documentary Film Award is backed by IAFOR and The Asian Conference on Media and Mass Communication (MediAsia) and The Asian Conference on Film & Documentary (FilmAsia), which have established themselves as prestigious events for industry professionals. Past winners of the IAFOR Documentary Film Award and the IAFOR Open Film Competition are listed below.



Human Harvest

Leon Lee

About the film
Human Harvest follows two Nobel Peace Prize nominees, renowned immigration and human rights lawyer David Matas and former member of Canadian parliament David Kilgour as they investigate allegations of live organ harvesting in China. In 2006, the Kilgour & Matas Report alleged that organs were harvested from living prisoners of conscience, mostly from detained Falun Gong practitioners. Human Harvest has raised awareness of the organ harvesting trade in China and the inferred violation of human rights.



Charlie Targett-Adams

About the film
As the band Placebo approach their 20th Anniversary they were given a unique opportunity to play ten cities throughout Russia. In a time when Russia was at the forefront of the world’s current affairs, little was actually reported outside Russia about the internal culture of the country.

Fronted by Placebo’s Stefan Olsdal, the film explores the alternative cultures that are present within Russia’s major cities. As the tour travelled through the country the band went out and met various artists, architects, animators and musicians, finding out about the alternative creative culture and celebrating all they have to offer.

From Krasnoyarsk in Siberia to St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea, Placebo: Alt.Russia takes you on the band’s journey through Russia, meeting great characters on the way, investigating the alternative culture in Russia, and taking in the raw emotions of Placebo’s powerful concerts.

Amarapura Trailer from Will Garofalo on Vimeo.



Rachel Reed & Will Garofalo

About the film
Through the lens of two Buddhist monks with very different beliefs, ‘Amarapura’ explores religious intolerance within Myanmar’s Buddhist populace. The filmmakers infiltrate a controversial and mysterious organization known as the Ma Ba Tha, whose monk-endorsed hate speech has incited several episodes of violence and further discrimination against the Muslim minority throughout the country.

To us, it may be surprising to witness violence stemming from the Buddhist community–often proclaimed as one of the world’s most peaceful religions. But religious intolerance can manifest itself in any community, and sometimes fear of extremism can lead to extremism itself.

Adi | At The Confluence [Official Trailer] from Joor Baruah on Vimeo.


Adi: At the Confluence

Joor Baruah

About the film
This mini documentary follows the story of the Adi people. Far east in the Himalayan border of India and China, lives the Adi by the river Siang. The Adi culture is beautiful and unique with shamanic chants of their mythologies of origin, animistic rituals around nature and amicable resolution of disputes in their traditional courts. With the memories of 1962 Indo-China war still fresh, China now reasserts its territorial claim of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, the land of the Adis.


Among the Believers

Hemal Trivedi & Mohammed Ali Naqvi

About the film
Charismatic cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi, an ISIS supporter and Taliban ally, is waging jihad against the Pakistani state. His dream is to impose a strict version of Shariah law throughout the country, as a model for the world. A flashpoint in Aziz’s holy war took place in 2007, when the government leveled his flagship mosque to the ground, killing his mother, brother, only son and 150 students. With unprecedented access, Among the Believers follows Aziz on his very personal quest to create an Islamic utopia, during the bloodiest period in Pakistan’s modern history.

Aziz’s foil is nuclear physicist and leading educational activist Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy. He passionately opposes Aziz through his public appearances, lectures, and the media. Opposition against Aziz comes to a head in December, 2014, when Aziz insults a grieving nation by trying to justify the brutal massacre of 132 school children in Peshawar by the Taliban. The attack ignites a movement to end extremism in Pakistan’s mosques and madrassahs. Led by Hoodbhoy and others, Pakistan’s moderate majority focuses on Aziz and calls for his arrest.

Intimate and shocking, Among the Believers offers rare insights into the ideological battles shaping Pakistan and the Muslim world.


BREAKING POINT: The War for Democracy in Ukraine

Mark Jonathan Harris & Oles Sanin

About the film
BREAKING POINT is the dramatic and inspiring portrait of people willing to give up their private, normal lives to unite in a collective effort to defeat Putin and bring the rule of law and democracy to the Ukraine. Their battle to wrest power from the autocrats and plutocrats who control their governments is a struggle that is being waged around the world, from the Mideast to America.



Saving Mes Aynak

Brent E. Huffman

About the film
Saving Mes Aynak follows Afghan archaeologist Qadir Temori as he races against time to save 2,000-year-old Buddhist archaeological site in Afghanistan from imminent demolition.

A Chinese state-owned mining company is closing the site to harvest $100 billion dollars worth of copper buried directly beneath the archaeological ruins.

The documentary examines the conflict between cultural preservation and economic opportunity through the lens of the Afghan archaeologists and local villagers who work and live near the Mes Aynak.

Qadir Temori and his fellow Afghan archaeologists are facing an impossible battle against the Chinese, the Taliban and the local politics to save the cultural and historical heritage, which might redefine the history of Afghanistan and the history of Buddhism itself.


Marovo Carver

Elliot Spencer

About the film
Tasiro is a wood carver who expertly creates traditional sculptures, which represent Solomon Island culture and reflect the natural beauty of the environment that surrounds him. Dedicated to his craft Tasiro uses carving as a means of supporting his family.

This visually captivating documentary reveals a mesmerizing contemporary insight into the lives and challenges facing these Solomon Islanders, as they adapt to the existential and ever changing modernizing World.

Set in an Island Paradise and narrated exclusively in Marovo Language it is a gentle and uplifting story, told by Tasiro himself, that takes you deep into the World Heritage Listed Marovo Lagoon. It captures an almost surreal moment in time as the past, present and future, come together.

Trailer: Marovo Carver from Elliot Spencer on Vimeo.


The Land of Many Palaces

Adam James Smith & Song Ting

About the film
In Ordos, China, thousands of farmers are being relocated into a new city under a government plan to modernize the region. The Land of Many Palaces follows a government official whose job is to convince these farmers that their lives will be better off in the city, and a farmer in one of the last remaining villages in the region who is pressured to move. The film explores a process that will take shape on an enormous scale across China, since the central government announced plans to relocate 250 million farmers to cities across the nation over the next 20 years.

If you are interested in screening The Land of Many Palaces at a conference or workshop, or if you’d like to invite directors to your campus to speak about the film, please contact

Universities, high schools, public libraries, community groups, museums and other institutions can order an “Educational DVD”. For individuals, “Home Use” DVD’s will be available from Spring 2016.

The Land of Many Palaces (Trailer) from Adam James Smith on Vimeo.


GAZELLE – The Love Issue

Cesar Terranova

About the film
Paulo is a 45-year-old Brazilian flight attendant. He is internationally famous in the after-hours world for the fabulous persona he has worked tirelessly to create, his artistic alter-ego, Gazelle. Appearing in clubs around the world in boldly conceived but carefully created costumes, Gazelle is a human sculpture, a magical ever-changing creature of the night.

But being Gazelle isn’t easy.

With the sudden and tragic sad death of Eric, his partner of seven years, Paulo must pass through a life transformation.Paulo is HIV+ but never got sick before and now he sees his own life is in danger for the first time. Looking to survive, he embarks on a conscious transformation, beginning with filtering what matters in his life. After his first grief, we see that Gazelle becomes a even stronger presence in his life as he begins to use his alter ego to express his deepest feelings and dreams.

TRAILER "GAZELLE – THE LOVE ISSUE" from Cesar Terranova on Vimeo.



The Changing Place of Making

Jack Weisman, Canada

About the film
The Changing Place of Making is a process of understanding inherent legacies passed from one generation to another. Through examining the dynamics between myself, my father, and his craft, I am also accepting his legacy. Creativity was a not chosen activity.


Lines of Flight

Sal Brown & Martin Wood, United Kingdom

About the Film
Insightful with a little frisson of fear, Lines of Flight invokes the connection between industrial cities and the upland moors of the northern English Pennines by counterpoising the confines of modern life, be they social, psychological, or physical, with the captivating experience of free solo rock climbing. With a focus on the adventure and sheer joy of escaping the form-imposing abstractions of economic, social, and organisational constraint in some of the most beautiful parts of Britain, Lines of Flight appeals to both climbing and non-climbing audiences.


The Spoiler

Sanne Rovers, The Netherlands

About the Film
In this coming-of-age film we follow the dynamics within a group of friends who are building a 8.5 metre high float for the Grand Parade with carnival. The friends are put more and more under pressure as carnival approaches.


A Place for Everyone

Angelos Rallis & Hans Ulrich Gößl, Belgium

About the Film
Is it possible to create “A Place for Everyone”, for victims and killers, after a genocide took place? As small children Benoite and Tharcisse, the two protagonists of this documentary film, grew up next to each other and played together on the same fields in a small village in the mountains of Rwanda. What separated them is the fact that Benoite belonged to the ethnic group of Tutsis and Tharcisse to the one of Hutus.

During the genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 Benoite’s entire family got killed, whereas Tharcisse’s father was among the ones carrying out the killings. Two decades later, perpetrators and survivors live again together door to door in Tharcisse’s and Benoite’s home village. “A Place for Everyone” portrays how this traumatised society struggles with a fragile reconciliation process in the aftermath of its genocide.

Filmed over a period of four years and through the perspective of Benoite and Tharcisse the documentary film A Place for Everyone raises questions on the psychological and sociological impact of genocide and portrays a generation of young survivors full of hidden desire for love, hate and forgiveness.


Himself He Cooks

Valérie Berteau & Philippe Witjes, Belgium

About the Film
Tons of colorful fruits and rice, giant cooking-pots, anonymous volunteers moving in unison to feed the visitors: we observe a langar, the Sikh tradition of a common canteen where all are served for free regardless of background. Set in the Golden Temple of Amritsar, a prominent place of Sikh worship, this beautiful, wordless film captures the spontaneous choreography of hundreds of people preparing 100,000 meals a day to reveal the unique face of this sacred place. Himself He Cooks is at once a striking visual essay, offering insights into the meaning of charity and philanthropy, and a profound meditation on food as the nexus of culture, nature, and human necessity.



Nickel City Smiler

Scott T. Murchie, USA

About the film
Forced to flee their homeland because of the brutal Burmese military dictatorship and a decades old civil war, Nickel City Smiler is a documentary film that follows a refugee’s struggle for hope and the American dream amidst discrimination, poverty and violence in one of the United State’s poorest cities.


The Man who fed his shadow

Mario Garefo, Greece

About the film
A man intrudes into rich people’s dinners claiming that he can collect the food from their table and feed his shadow, which, curiously enough, is a female figure.




Anshul Tiwari

About the film
“Ideas take birth silently, slipping under the skin and growing like cancer,” says Anshul Tiwari. “This film started much before I had known I was making it. When I first saw Dennis playing in the tunnel, he didn’t strike me as anyone particularly special. But there was something that told me to come back to that tunnel. I began frequenting that place more often. I didn’t know it precisely but I could feel that I was being drawn to his music. It began to live inside me.”


Too Close to the Sky

Denis Quinn

About the film
Hiroto is a young underground musician at odds with the modern Japan yet protected from the realities of the past. He is estranged from his successful Father Toshi who he sees as representing everything he detests. But all is not what it seems and now fate has intervened, forcing each man to face each other. Too Close to the Sky is an intense examination of the events of one day, where modern sub-culture meets the opulence of the `bubble` generation, where secrets are revealed and tragedies unfold, where two generations collide each finding out more about each other than they could possibly have imagined. Set amidst the seething underground music scene and the contrasting towering skyscrapers and cityscape of modern Japan, the film`s locations themselves become a metaphor for the story within.