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by Eric Kohn
January 9, 2014 11:59 AM
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'The Act of Killing,' 'Stories We Tell' and 'Cutie and the Boxer' Top Cinema Eye Honors

The Cinema Eye Honors.

While only five films will compete for the best documentary Oscar after nominations are announced next week, many more were celebrated last night at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens during the seventh annual Cinema Eye Honors, which recognize the finest non-fiction accomplishments of the year.

Two acclaimed documentaries from 2013 capped the night, with Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing” winning the Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking and Sarah Polley nabbing Outstanding Achievement in Direction for “Stories We Tell.” However, the biggest winner of the evening was unquestionably Zachary Heinzerling’s “Cutie and the Boxer,” the Sundance-acclaimed portrait of a New York artist and his committed wife, which won three prizes: Outstanding Debut for Heinzerling, Outstanding Graphics and Animation for production company Art Jail and Outstanding Original Score for Yasuaki Shimizu.

"Cutie and the Boxer."

Highlights from the evening included a lengthy introduction by Michael Moore, who noted the welcome lack of competition among the communal filmmakers in the room, an appearance by editor Thelma Schoonmaker (who compared editing Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” to working on documentary films), and a Legacy Award presented to Barbara Kopple for her 1976 film “Harlan County USA.”

One of the more touching moments of the evening arrived early on, when Cinema Eye co-founder AJ Schnack paid tribute to filmmaker Laura Poitras, who has been unable to work in the United States due to her role in documenting Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks last year. Schnack played a clip from an acceptance speech Poitras gave at the 2011 Cinema Eye Honors, after her documentary “The Oath” won a prize, in which the filmmaker called for all the documentarians in the room to pledge to go to jail before allowing institutions to censure their work.

Another significant moment arrived when “Gasland” and “Gasland II” director Josh Fox received the Cinema Eye’s “Hell Yeah” prize for his activism. Noting that his attendance at the ceremony meant that he had to miss an Albany protest established to encourage Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking in New York state, Fox asked the entire audience to stand up and shout “Hell yeah!” as a means of endorsing the anti-fraking message, while the filmmaker took a photo he intended to send to both Governor Cuomo and President Barack Obama.

For a full list of last night's winners, head to the next page.