"Exit Through the Gift Shop," the story of how an eccentric French shop keeper and amateur filmmaker attempted to locate and befriend street artist Banksy, took the top prize at the 2011 Cinema Eye Honors in New York Wednesday night, while Laura Poitras received the Outstanding Achievement in Direction award for her work on "The Oath," capping a lengthy but heartfelt ceremony at the newly refurbished Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, hosted by filmmakers AJ Schnack ("Convention") and Esther Robinson ("A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory").
The fourth annual event, dedicated to the art of non-fiction filmmaking, gave away an array of awards recognizing a wide spectrum of documentary work, in an event that included laughs and a few tears. Morgan Spurlock took to the stage for a moving tribute to filmmaker George Hickenlooper ("Heart of Darkness") who died last year, while Greg Barker ("Sergio"), Lucia Small ("My Father, the Genius"), and Liz Garbus ("Bobby Fischer Against the World"), who all worked with the late editor Karen Schmeer ("The Fog of War"), recalled memories of the woman one filmmaker referred to as an "editing maestro" before they presented this year's award for editing to "Exit Through the Gift Shop."
Applause and a standing ovation were reserved for doc maverick Albert Maysles and editor Muffie Meyer who received Cinema Eye's Legacy Award for their work on "Grey Gardens" (1975).
"The top honor goes to those two women who let us into their lives," Maysles said of "Garden"'s subjects Edith and "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale. "Later, [Little] Edie told us after seeing her mother who was dying, that her mother told her, 'There's nothing more to say, it's all in the film...'" Maysles went on to say that the film had been a collaborative process and credited everyone for making it. But, he added with laughs, "I'm 84 years old and I'm still going strong. So if there's some rich person out there that has money to finance my next 25 films, let me know..."
"Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg won the Audience Award, while Chinese director Lixin Fan's "Last Train Home" took home three awards for best cinematography, production, and international film. Jeff Malmberg received the Cinema Eye for debut film and Matt Porterfield’s "Putty Hill" won the newly inaugurated Heterodox Award, which recognizes a film that fuses fiction and non-fiction.
One of the biggest laughs of the evening came from a statement read by the ever elusive Banksy after winning the top prize:
"Now is not the time for a long rambling self-indulgent speech - I'll leave that to the director of 'Waiting for "Superman."' I'd like to thank the Cinema Eye Awards. It's great to be recognized by people who are so obsessive about the documentary genre. In other words, people who are even more socially retarded than myself... How can you be sure this award is real? I'd like to categorically assure you this evening's awards are not being staged by actors for a parody on making a film about the film awards circuit." In closing, Banksy's statement said, "I'd like to dedicate this award to anyone out there who has ever looked at the state of the world and thought, 'I can't just stand idly and watch this happen... I should get it on tape."
The full list of the 2011 Cinema Eye Honors, with information provided by organizers:
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN NONFICTION FEATURE FILMMAKING
"Exit Through the Gift Shop," Directed by Banksy
Presented by James Marsh
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTION
Laura Poitras, "The Oath"
Presented by Louie Psihoyos
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION
Mila Aung-Thwin and Daniel Cross, "Last Train Home"
Presented by Ross Kauffman and Basil Tsiokos
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN EDITING
Chris King and Tom Fulford, "Exit Through the Gift Shop"
Presented by Greg Barker, Liz Garbus and Lucia Small
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
Lixin Fan, "Last Train Home"
Presented by Steven Bognar
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN ORIGINAL MUSIC SCORE
Norbert Möslang, "The Sound of Insects: Record of a Mummy"
Presented by John Flansburgh
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN GRAPHIC DESIGN AND ANIMATION
Juan Cardarelli and Alex Tyson, "Gasland"
Presented by Emily Hubley
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AN INTERNATIONAL FEATURE
"Last Train Home," Directed by Lixin Fan
Presented by Jess Search
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN A DEBUT FEATURE FILM
Jeff Malmberg, "Marwencol"
Presented by Bill Ross and Turner Ross
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN NONFICTION SHORT FILMMAKING
"The Poodle Trainer," Directed by Vance Malone
Presented by Patrick Creadon
AUDIENCE CHOICE PRIZE
"Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," Directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg
Presented by Harry Shearer
"Grey Gardens," Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer and Susan Froemke
Presented by Lixin Fan, Jeff Malmberg, and Laura Poitras
"The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu," Directed by Andrei Ujica
Presented by Margaret Brown
"Putty Hill," Directed by Matt Porterfield
Presented by Yance Ford and Scott Macaulay