John Greyson Wins 4th TEDDY Award From Berlinale 2021 for INTERNATIONAL DAWN CHORUS DAY

The short film spotlights the unjust deaths of Egyptian activists Shady Habash and Sarah Hegazi, protesting the horrors of wrongful detention.

By: Jun. 18, 2021
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John Greyson's International Dawn Chorus Day, which had its world premiere at Berlinale 2021where it screened as one of 20 short films in the Documentary + Experimental programme, has won the Teddy Award for Best Short Film. International Dawn Chorus Day is the short, experimental documentary from John Greyson, award-winning filmmaker belonging to the Toronto New Wave and New Queer Cinema movements. The short is written, directed and produced by Greyson with Shant Joshi of Fae Pictures serving as Impact Producer.

This will be the 4th time Greyson has won a Teddy, having previously received it for Urinal (1989, Best Feature), The Making of Monsters (1991, Best Short), and Fig Trees (2009, Best Essay Film). The Teddy Award is Berlinale's queer film award - is the most important queer film prize in the world, unofficially and affectionately labeled the "Queer Oscar." A socially committed, political award, it recognises films and people who foster a heightened awareness of queer topics across the board and thus contribute to a greater tolerance, acceptance, solidarity and equality in society. The Teddy Award has been presented at the Berlin International Film Festival since 1987. Films from all sections of the festival compete for the coveted TEDDYs each year.

International Dawn Chorus Day was shot during the pandemic with 40 filmmakers from across the globe. The film uses a Zoom call visual to offer a bird song for Egyptian filmmaker Shady Habash and Egyptian queer activist, Sarah Hegazi, who lost their lives enduring the horrors of wrongful detention.

Shady Habash was known for his satiric anti-dictator music videos, and died in Cairo's notorious Tora prison the day before the 36th annual International Dawn Chorus Day (May 3, 2020). Egyptian queer activist Sarah Hegazi, famously incarcerated for flying a rainbow flag at a Cairo concert, lived in Toronto as a refugee and took her own life a month after International Dawn Chorus Day.

Having experienced jail time in Cairo during the Arab Spring in 2013, John Greyson reminds audiences of the "lockdown" of the real struggles that so many Egyptian activists and artists continue to face in the detention and imprisonment systems in the Arab world. Most recently, Sanaa Seif (film editor and collaborator on Hot Doc' hit, The Square) was sentenced to 18 months for the crime of trying to deliver a letter to her brother, likewise serving time in the same prison where Habash and Greyson were incarcerated.

Greyson said, "I'm incredibly honoured by this Teddy award and accept it on behalf of all the prisoners still locked up in Egypt. Despite lockdown, despite Sisi, the stories of Shady and Sarah and everyone must be told, must be heard."

"Even though the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the world in its tracks, International Dawn Chorus Day reminds us that injustice never ceases to halt and, if left unnoticed, can fester into disastrous consequences. We thank jury members Esma Akyel, Samuel Girma, and Sylvie Cachin for recognizing the necessity of this bird song for our fallen heroes, Shady Habash and Sarah Hegazi," added Impact Producer Shant Joshi.

40 artists and filmmakers from six continents collaborated on the cinematography, waking up early on May 3, 2020 to shoot/record their respective dawn choruses on their cellphones. The 40 are, in alphabetical order: Anonymous (Imbaba, Cairo), Anonymous (New Cairo City), Anonymous (Tora, Cairo), Sofia Bohdanowicz (London), AA Bronson (Berlin), Julie Burleigh (LA), Shu Lea Cheang (Paris), Sheila Davis (Halifax), Richard Fung (Dades, Morocco), Rebecca Garrett (Toronto), Shohini Ghosh (Delhi), John Greyson (Toronto), Maureen Greyson (Coventry), Sharon Hayashi (LA), Dee Dee Halleck (Willow), Nelson Henricks (Montreal), April Hickox (Toronto), Michelle Jacques (Victoria), Nancy Kim (Seoul), Prabha Khosla (Burnaby), Lyne Lapointe (Mansonville), Stephen Lawson (Montreal), Jack Lewis (Vanwyksdorp), Catherine Lord (Hudson), Loring McAlpin (New York), Alexis Mitchell (Glasgow), Maki Mizukoshi (Tokyo), Ken Morrison (Cuernavaca), Daniel Negatu (Vancouver), Martha Newbigging (Consecon), Jane Park (Sydney), Pamela Rodgerson (Toronto), Su Rynard (Toronto), Lior Shamriz (Glendale), Amil Shivji (Dar Es Salaam), Cheryl Sourkes (Montreal), Dieylani Sow (Dakar), Richard Tillmann (Bayfield), Almerinda Travassos (Prince Edward County), David Wall (Toronto), BH Yael (Toronto). (Note: the Egyptians collaborators by necessity must be anonymous, given widespread reprisals against any Egyptians speaking out against the regime).

Editing by Kalil Haddad (Tiger Eats a Baby, Still Processing, Farm Boy, As I Sat in His Car) with sound by Everett Major (Tiger Eats a Baby, Farm Boy, As I Sat in His Car).