At a special gala screening of Jon Shenk's "The Island President," the 2nd annual DOC NYC film festival announced the winners for its juried awards. After a brief newsreel from Occupy Wall Street, directed by Jem Cohen, the awards got underway.
The festival's international Viewfinders section spotlights filmmakers with a "distinct directorial voice." Gover Babcock and Blue Hadaegh's "Scenes of a Crime," a legal drama about a messy case in upstate New York, took home the Viewfinders Grand Jury Prize, and Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin's doc about a Memphis high school football team earned a Special Jury Prize.
The Grand Jury Prize in the Metropolis section for films that tell New York stories went to Corinne van der Borch for her film "Girl with Black Balloons," a documentary portrait of the reclusive artist Bettina, in her home in the Chelsea Hotel. Laura Brownson and Beth Levison received a Special Jury Prize from the Metropolis jury for their film "Lemon."
Bess Kargman's "First Position," a look at international ballet students who come to train in New York, won the fest's Audience Award. The film will be released by Sundance Selects.
The festival will continue into tomorrow, when it will re-screen the award winners and host a special screening of "Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears," in honor of the boxer, who died earlier this week.
After the awards and feature presentation, Michael Moore took to the stage to engage "The Island President" director Jon Shenk in a Q&A. In discussion, Moore praised the film for being "powerful, emotional, and beautifully shot." The film, a big documentary that just got picked up by the Samuel Goldwyn Company, centers on Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, who led the developing world's small nations in a fight against big world powers in the carbon emission standards set at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2010. The Maldives, a series of 2,000 islands in the Indian Ocean, is threatened with obliteration if sea levels rise.
The conversation did get interesting when Moore and audience members began to question whether or not the compromises President Nasheed conceded to were against his ideals. Perhaps, Moore wondered, the film did not hold Nasheed — or the United States, which has done little to reduce its grossly disproportionate level of carbon emissions — to the high standards set by those fighting climate change. Lively debate and discussion — everything a documentary film wants to provoke.