Canadian Documentary Film Festival
April 17 - 27, 2008 / Toronto
The jury for international features, consisting of film critic Elvis Mitchell, journalist Johanna Schneller and Iikka Vehkalahti, Commissioning Editor, YLE TV 2 Documentaries, granted three awards to films in the competitive International Spectrum programme. The Best International Feature Documentary Award, sponsored by A&E, went to THE ENGLISH SURGEON (D: Geoffrey Smith; P: Geoffrey Smith, Rachel Wexler; UK), the story of renowned British brain surgeon Henry Marsh who offers desperately needed hope to those suffering from life-threatening tumors in the Ukraine.
The jury said of the film: “Polished and shameless, in the best sense of combining two seemingly contradictory elements and shaping them into a satisfying and penetrating whole…as one juror noted, this film has everything.” The winner received a $5000 cash prize, courtesy of Hot Docs.
The Special Jury Prize for international feature documentary, sponsored by the OMDC, was awarded to TO SEE IF I’M SMILING (D&P: Tamar Yarom; Israel), which offers frank testimonials of female Israeli soldiers that illustrate how the trauma of war temporarily alters personalities, morals and values.
The jury said of the film: “The Special Jury Prize is given to a film that makes all of us face the question: could this be me? Would I behave this way? The director and protagonists share memories of a different and painful existence in a way that touches and challenges us and is relevant everywhere in the world.”
The new HBO Documentary Films Emerging Artist Award was presented to Boris Despodov for CORRIDOR #8 (P: Martichka Bozhilova; Bulgaria), an absurdly funny and fascinating portrait of a misguided infrastructure project in southeastern Europe.
The jury said of the film: “For the Emerging Artist Award, our jury must have set a new record for consensus - it was pretty much immediate. We agreed right away. This film is gorgeous, hilarious, enlightening and irresistible.”
Click here to read more about the film.
The jury for Canadian features, consisting of filmmaker Massoud Bakhshi, producer Michael Burns and IDFA programmer Rada Sesic, granted two awards to films in the competitive Canadian Spectrum programme. The Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award, sponsored by Documentary and the Documentary Organisation of Canada, was presented to JUNIOR (D: Isabelle Lavigne, Stéphane Thibault; P: Johanne Bergeron, Yves Bisaillon (NFB)), a behind-the-scenes look at the pressures facing junior hockey players.
The jury said of the film: “With unanimous enthusiasm, the jury wants to cite an original view of small town Quebec life. Its cinéma vérité approach gives the audience a truly authentic drama that penetrates the lives of small town icons.” The winner received a $5000 cash prize, courtesy of Documentary.
The Special Jury Prize for Canadian feature documentary, sponsored by the NFB and the Directors Guild of Canada, was awarded to FLICKER (D: Nik Sheehan; P: Maureen Judge, Anita Lee (NFB)) the story of pop culture icon Brion Gysin, his hypnotic dream machine and his influence on his generation.
The jury said of the film: “This cinematically refined portrait of the self-destructive artist, remembered by his friends and compatriots uses interesting visuals and creative sound design to bring us into the world of an almost forgotten mid-century innovator.” The winner received a $5000 FAP (Filmmaker Assistance Program) prize, courtesy of the NFB.
The Best Short Documentary Award (up to 29 min), sponsored by Playback, was awarded to THE APOLOGY LINE (D&P: James Lees; UK). The film, which documents a telephone service set up to offer the public the opportunity to make anonymous confessions, was commended by the jury for its formal innovation and poetic exploration of the paradox of urban isolation and intimacy.
The Best Mid-Length Documentary Award (30-59 min), sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts, was given to IT’S ALWAYS LATE FOR FREEDOM (D&P: Mehrdad Oskouei; Iran), which was screened as part of this year’s popular Spotlight on Iran programme. An eye-opening and hopeful portrait of a Tehranian youth correctional facility, the jury noted that the film rose above its competition by offering an element of discovery and by challenging the viewer’s preconceptions.
The jury for short and mid-length films consisted of filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal (short films only), Molly Dineen (mid-length films only) and Arturo Perez Torres, and Elena Fortes Acosta, Festival Director of Ambulante Documentary Film Festival (Mexico).
TAKING ROOT: THE VISION OF WANGARI MAATHAI (D: Lisa Merton, Alan Dater; USA). The film follows the inspiring story of the Nobel laureate whose simple act of planting trees inspired Kenya’s environmental movement, protected the human rights of its people and defended the nation’s democracy, won the Hot Docs Audience Award. Sponsored by History Television, the award is decided by audience ballot. The 2008 Hot Docs top 10, as determined by audience ballot, are:
1. TAKING ROOT: THE VISION OF WANGARI MAATHAI (D: Lisa Merton, Alan Dater; USA)
2. PLANET B-BOY (D: Benson Lee; USA)
3. DEAR ZACHARY: A LETTER TO A SON ABOUT HIS FATHER (D: Kurt Kuenne; USA)
4. THE ENGLISH SURGEON (D: Geoffrey Smith; UK)
5. TRIAGE: DR. JAMES ORBINSKI’S HUMANITARIAN DILEMMA (D: Patrick Reed; Canada)
6. ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL (D: Sacha Gervasi; USA)
7. THE BEETLE (D: Yishai Orian; Israel)
8. DADDY TRAN: A LIFE IN 3-D (D: Siu Ta; Canada)
9. STRANDED, I’VE COME FROM A PLANE THAT CRASHED IN THE MOUNTAINS (D: Gonzalo Arijon; France)
10. ALL TOGETHER NOW (D: Adrian Wills; Canada)
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Prize for best Canadian documentary on international development was awarded to SHOCK WAVES (D: Pierre Mignault, Hélène Magny) for its courageous portrayal of a country and its people. The documentary shows the powerful impact that community-based radio has in affecting significant change throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The CIDA Jury commended the filmmakers for sharing the risks taken by the Radio Okapi journalists on the ground and for bringing a fresh perspective to this under-reported story. The CIDA Award comes with a $5000 cash prize.
Also at the Awards Presentation, The Hot Docs Board of Directors presented its annual Outstanding Achievement Award to documentary pioneer Richard Leacock.
Montreal-based director Yung Chang, whose film UP THE YANGTZE recently broke Canadian box office records for documentaries, was named recipient of this year’s Don Haig Award, which recognizes a director whose work has bridged the fiction and non-fiction filmmaking worlds. The $10,000 cash prize, to be used for whatever the filmmaker needs towards his craft, is awarded each year by a jury consisting of representatives from the Don Haig Award Committee and Hot Docs in memory of influential producer.
Toronto-based filmmaker Elizabeth Lazebnik was named the recipient of the Lindalee Tracey Award, a $5000 cash prize presented annually to a filmmaker who works in the spirit of its namesake – with passion, humour, a strong sense of social justice and a personal point of view.
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