It was a big night for “CITIZENFOUR” at the Cinema Eye Awards on Wednesday, when Laura Poitras’ portrait of Edward Snowden cleaned up at the documentary awards ceremony in Queens with four awards, including Outstanding Nonfiction Feature and Outstanding Direction.
But when the film’s producers took the stage to accept the prize for Outstanding Achievement in Production, they struck a somber note. Still reeling from the terror attacks in Paris earlier that day, when three men shot and killed a dozen members of a French satirical magazine, the film’s two European producers — Dirk Wilutzky and Mathilde Bonnefoy, who accepted the award along with Poitras — made the events the focus of their speeches.
“There’s a big elephant in the room, I think you say in English,” said producer Dirk Wilutzky. “I’m from Germany and Mathilde is from Paris. There were some very bad things that happened today in Paris and I don’t want to spend the night without mentioning them at least.”
Wilutzky went on to place the events in the context of the ceremony, which was attended by a number of prominent documentary filmmakers. “I think we all, as documentary filmmakers, have a big responsibility to react to this,” he said. “There will be a lot of simple answers in the next days about who’s to blame and what is to be done. I think we, as documentary filmmakers, should find better answers to that.”
He ended with a plea. “We have a lot of work in front of us to understand, analyze and make suggestions about how this could have happened and what is to be done in a very serious way,” he said. “Please take this as a motivation to make more documentaries and make the world more understandable.”
Bonnefoy, who also won an award later in the evening for editing the film, added a note of optimism. “We were talking about whether this was the right day to celebrate since we were all affected by the events in Paris. We said to each other, ‘Actually, it is,'” she said. “The documentary community is the best to react to this, so we’re especially happy to be here with you.”
At the end of the night, Poitras concluded the ceremony by dedicating the Outstanding Nonfiction Feature prize to collaborator Glenn Greenwald and Snowden, who “who made the decision to risk his personal freedom so we could understand what our government was doing,” she said. “This award is for him.”