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The Cinema Eye Honors Grow Up as ‘Citizenfour’ Heads for Oscar Glory

The Cinema Eye Honors Grow Up as 'Citizenfour' Heads for Oscar Glory

Way back in 1976, when Paul Simon won Best Album of the Year for “Still Crazy After All These Years,” he said, “I’d like to thank Stevie Wonder for not releasing an album this year.” Way back last week, when directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“The LEGO Movie”) picked up their New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Animated Feature, they joked, “We’d like to thank Pixar for not releasing a movie this year.”

Next year at the Oscars, the winner of Best Documentary may well gaze soulfully at her statuette, look at the audience and say, “I’d like to thank Laura Poitras for not releasing a documentary this year.”

If last night’s Cinema Eye Honors were any indication, Poitras is poised to win it all  (despite the CEH having been established precisely because the Academy Doc branch was giving every indication eight years ago that it didn’t have a clue. It may have gotten one. We’ll see). “Citizenfour,” her genre-redefining story of Edward Snowden and his revelations about domestic surveillance, was named the “outstanding achievement” in four categories (picture, production, direction and editing) and no one was unhappy, except maybe the non-winners, and they were doing a great job hiding it.

In addition to making some stellar choices (picked by a virtual platoon of film programmers from around the world, which does seem a bit self-serving), the Cinema Eye program, held once again at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, N.Y., clocked in at an admirable one hour, ten minutes. Much noise was made on stage about avoiding the kind of four-hour slog that marked last year’s show and despite numerous digressions to discuss how short the program was going to be, it actually was.

As a self-consciously alternative awards entity, it may NOT mean much regarding the rest of awards season. The Audience Award for best film, the presenter of which was picked randomly out of the audience (and who turned out to be Timothy “Speed “ Levitch, subject of Bennett Miller’s debut doc “The Cruise”) went to “Keep On Keepin’ On,” Alan Hicks’ film on jazz great Clark Terry, and is more akin with the choices Oscar doc voters have made of late, especially when faced with more serious and seriously political works. Nothing’s more political than “Citizenfour” – in one of her trips to the stage, Poitras voiced gratitude that she can now come back to her own country. One of her two producers, Dirk Wilutzky, was the first to bring up yesterday’s bombing in Paris saying that “in the days ahead, there will be a lot of answers about what happened today. It’s up to documentary makers to find better answers.”

Among the documentary-makers on hand were ….well,  actually, it would be easier to list the people on hand who weren’t documentary makers. Presenters included Poitras and her competition, Steve James (“Life Itself”); Alan Berliner and Lucy Walker (who won best short for “The Lion’s Mouth Opens”);  Dawn Porter (“Gideon’s Army”) and the Beckett-does-standup-comedy duo of Jennie Livingston (“Paris Is Burning’) and doc-editor extraordinaire Jonathan Oppenheim. In giving out the directing award, Livingston said “I have one thing to say about directing: Don’t,” advice she said she’d once gotten from her uncle, the late Alan J. Pakula. MC Sam Green joked that Livingston had spoken for nine hours when she got the CE Legacy Award a day earlier. It would certainly have been entertaining.

Announcing the awards was the bodiless voice of “Serial” podcaster Sarah Koenig. The Best Presenter Awards, had they been voted by the audience, would have gone to the fab twosome of Penny and Al — D.A. Pennenbaker and Albert Maysles, who took the stage to give Poitras the best film prize and kibbitz. Both paid tribute to their wives, who were both in the audience.

“Stick with documentaries,” Pennebaker advised, “and you’ll have a big family.”

“Which you won’t be able to afford,” Maysles cracked, “on the money from documentaries.”

Here are the CEH winners:

Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking

Directed by Laura Poitras
Produced by Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

Outstanding Achievement in Direction

Laura Poitras

Outstanding Achievement in Editing

Mathilde Bonnefoy

Outstanding Achievement in Production

Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography (tie)

Erik Wilson
20,000 Days on Earth

Franklin Dow and Orlando von Einsiedel

Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Films Made for Television

The Price of Gold
Directed by Nanette Burstein
Produced by Libby Geist
For ESPN/30 for 30: John Dahl, Connor Schell, Bill Simmons

Audience Choice Prize

Keep On Keepin’ On

Directed by Alan Hicks

Outstanding Achievement in a Debut Feature Film

Finding Vivian Maier
Directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Score

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
20,000 Days on Earth

Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design or Animation (tie)

Syd Garon
Jodorowsky’s Dune

Heather Brantman & Tim Fisher
Particle Fever

Spotlight Award

Directed by Johanna Hamilton

Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Filmmaking

The Lion’s Mouth Opens
Directed by Lucy Walker

Heterodox Award

Directed by Richard Linklater

Legacy Award

Paris is Burning
Directed by Jennie Livingston

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