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From a “Village” to a “City”: Hot Docs Awards Their Best

From a "Village" to a "City": Hot Docs Awards Their Best

The 2009 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival handed out their awards in Toronto tonight, at a ceremony hosted by the CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi (of this fame). Simon El Habre’s “The One Man Village” and Hubert Davis’s “Invisible City” were the recipients of the fest’s two big prizes, with “Village” taking the Best International Feature Award and “City” winning the Best Canadian Feature Award. In all ten awards, including those for Festival films in competition and those recognizing emerging and established filmmakers, were presented and over $60,000 in cash prizes was handed out.

“The One Man Village,” produced in Lebanon, looks at the last inhabitant of a Lebanese village that was destroyed and deserted after the civil war. Hot Docs’ jury stated: “Exceptional clarity in the filmic storytelling of a simple man in the Lebanese highlands, told with great empathy and even more skill. This film is an enchanting and gripping film and at once a pleasant and powerful experience.” The Best International Feature Award is sponsored by A&E and comes with a $10,000 cash prize, courtesy of Hot Docs.

“Invisible City,” co-produced by the National Board of Canada, follows the lives of two black teenagers over three years as they navigate issues of race, crime and notions of manhood in Toronto’s Regent Park community. Said the jury: “The Award goes to a film that weds form and content with extraordinary grace and intelligence. It is no small feat to maintain a focus on the raw material of real human experience while honouring the documentary as a cinematic art form. Because it does all these things, and because it maintains the dignity of its subjects’ lives while asking difficult questions about the conditions under which those lives are lived, the jury has chosen Hubert Davis’s Invisible City as the best Canadian feature.” The Best Canadian Feature Award is sponsored by the Documentary Organization of Canada and the Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation and comes with a $15,000 cash prize courtesy of the Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation.

Special Jury Prize winners in both categories were Peter Kerekes’ Czech Republic-Slovakis co-production “Cooking History,” which won for International Feature and Kevin McMahon’s “Waterlife,” which took the jury prize for a Canadian Feature.

Additionally, the Toronto Documentary Forum (TDF) – which runs concurrent with Hot Docs – announced first-ever Canwest-Hot Docs TDF Pitch Prize, awarded to the best Canadian pitch presented during the Forum. International commissioning editors at the TDF table voted by secret ballot on the seven Canadian projects presented, ultimately awarding the $40,000 prize to Toronto’s White Pine Pictures for their project “The Team.” The award was presented at the TDF closing reception by Sarah Jane Flynn, Canwest’s director of factual content, to “The Team”‘s team, executive producer Peter Raymont and director Patrick Reed. The award funds will be used for the film’s production.

Other winners at the Hot Docs’ ceremony included Bartek Konopka’s “Rabbit a la Berlin,” which won Best Mid-Length Documentary, Kara Blake’s “The Delian Mode,” which won best Short Documentary, and Chung-ryoul Lee, director of “Old Partner,” who won the HBO Emerging Artist Award. “This film has the charm of the classic fairy tale,” the jury said of “Partner.” “Conveying the universal rhythms of life, death and rebirth with simplicity and dignity. In the story of a farmer, his wife, and the ox they depend on, the filmmaker has found a universal tale told in the most intimate fashion.”

A scene from Hubert Davis’s “Invisible City,” winner of Best Canadian Feature at Hot Docs. Photo courtesy of Hot Docs.

The Don Haig Award, presented annually to an emerging Canadian documentary filmmaker, was awarded to Montreal’s Brett Gaylor (“RiP! A Remix Manifesto”). The Don Haig Jury also named Montreal’s Tracey Deer (“Club Native”) a runner up for the Award. Each filmmaker received a $10,000 cash prize. Meanwhile, The Lindalee Tracey Award, which honours “an emerging Canadian filmmaker with a passionate point of view, a strong sense of social justice and a sense of humour,” was presented to two filmmakers: Montreal’s Laura Bari and Ottawa’s Will Inrig. Each filmmaker received a cash prize of $3000 from the Lindalee Tracey Long-Term Fund and $1500 in film stock, courtesy of Kodak Canada.

The Hot Docs Board of Directors presented this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award to Alanis Obomsawin, who’s latest film, “Professor Norman Cornett – Since When Do We Divorce The Right Answer From An Honest Answer?” – is its world premiere later this evening.

The Hot Docs Festival Jury consisted of:

Canadian Features: Nahid Persson Sarvestani, filmmaker; Sky Sitney, director of programming, SILVERDOCS; Geoff Pevere, columnist, The Toronto Star.

International Features: John Greyson, filmmaker; Cara Mertes, director of the Documentary Film Program, Sundance Institute; Esther van Messel, CEO, First Hand Films.

Short and Mid-Length Films: Sara Diamond, president, Ontario College of Art and Design; Marie-Anne Raulet, director, Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal; Jean Marie Téno, filmmaker.

An additional award, the Hot Docs Audience Award, along with Hot Docs top ten audience favourites, will be announced on Monday, May 11.

Check out indieWIRE‘s coverage of Hot Docs below:
A Times Square Dive, Frolicking Boys and 6 Days of Gambling Shine at 16th Hot Docs
Hot Docs ‘09: Subjects on the Margins
Hot Docs ‘09: Growing Up, Confronting Reality
Buyers Be Aware: Notable Projects From Toronto’s Doc Forum

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