Entertainment & Arts

Harold Evans film Attacking The Devil wins Sheffield Doc/Fest award

Sir Harold Evans Image copyright Sheffield Doc/Fest
Image caption Sir Harold Evans ran an investigation into thalidomide while Sunday Times editor

A documentary about former Sunday Times editor Sir Harold Evans has won the top award at Sheffield Doc/Fest.

Attacking The Devil: Harold Evans and the Last Nazi War Crime has been awarded the event's special jury prize.

The film tells the story of Sir Harold's campaigns, including an investigation into the drug thalidomide, which left 10,000 babies with deformities in the 1950s and '60s.

Juror and film-maker Dawn Porter praised its "relevance and rigour".

Attacking The Devil was one of 130 films to be screened at the Sheffield event, one of the world's leading documentary festivals.

It was directed by Jacqui Morris and her brother David, who also made the 2012 documentary McCullin about Sunday Times war photographer Don McCullin.

Image caption Jacqui Morris said the film was about the importance of investigative journalism

As Sunday Times editor, Mr Evans campaigned for compensation for the victims of thalidomide before fighting a legal injunction to stop the paper revealing the drug's developers had not gone through the proper testing procedures.

Jacqui Morris said: "We're living in quite a transitional time with the press and the press are really under fire at the moment with the hacking scandals and everything that was highlighted by the Leveson Inquiry.

"I think what this [Thalidomide campaign] showed was the good the press can do and the importance of investigative journalism."

The film, which received its world premiere at the Sheffield festival, will have a cinema release in the autumn.

'Epic in scope'

Dawn Porter said: "We unanimously found this film to be an elegant examination of complex themes.

"We appreciated this film on all levels - it is a work approached with relevance and rigour, a historical film feels contemporary and engaging, blossoms like a novel, surprising when least expected.

"In a field of films remarkable for their quality, we found this film to be epic in scope traversing decades and exploring big themes while revealing intimate details.

"Attacking The Devil is a call to arms inviting us to examine our past as it celebrates and reminds us of the critical value of journalism."

The jury also gave an honourable mention to Night Will Fall, a film by director and producer Andre Singer looking at attempts to make a documentary about Nazi concentration camps after World War Two.

Last year's special jury prize winner, The Act of Killing, which was also produced by Mr Singer, went on to win a Bafta and be named the best film of 2013 by The Guardian.

This year's inspiration award was given to US film-maker Laura Poitras, who helped ex-CIA systems analyst Edward Snowden leak information about the US National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance programme. She is now making a film about the NSA.

But she did not attend the festival in person, instead sending a message saying she thought travelling to the UK "is not safe for me right now because of my reporting on GCHQ and NSA.

"The detention of David Miranda at Heathrow under terrorism laws, and the destruction of source material at the Guardian, sends a message that press freedom cannot be taken for granted in the UK."

The full list of winners:

  • Special Jury Award: Attacking The Devil: Harold Evans and the Last Nazi War Crime (Directors Jacqui Morris & David Morris). Special mention: Night Will Fall (Dir. Andre Singer)
  • Sheffield Innovation Award: A Short History of the Highrise (Dir. Katerina Cizek)
  • Sheffield Youth Jury Award: The Internet's Own Boy - The Story of Aaron Swartz (Dir. Brian Knappenberger)
  • Sheffield Green Award: Unearthed (Dir. Jolynn Minnaar)
  • Student Doc Award - Our Curse (Dir. Tomasz Sliwinski)
  • Short Award - Amanda F***ing Palmer on the Rocks (Dir. Ondi Timoner)
  • Tim Hetherington Award - Profession: Documentarist (Directors: Shirin Barghnavard, Firouzeh Khosrovani, Farhnaz Sharifi, Mina Keshavarz, Sepideh Abtahi, Sahar Salahshoor and Nahid Rezaei)
  • The Wintonick Award - Vessel (Dir. Diana Whitten)
  • Inspiration Award - Laura Poitras
  • Lifetime Achievement Award - Roger Graef

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