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2018 Cinema Eye Honors Bet On New Generation of Filmmakers, As Yance Ford’s ‘Strong Island’ Makes History

The first-time filmmaker's Outstanding Direction win made him the first debut director to pick up the prize.

"Strong Island"

“Strong Island”


When host — and living documentary legend — Steve James took the stage on Thursday night to kick off the start of the 11th Annual Cinema Eye Honors Awards at Queens’ own Museum of the Moving Image, he might have enjoyed the benefit of being tipped off as to who would dominate the ceremony. For James, the night was all about a “new generation” of filmmakers, and bringing them further into a tight-knit community that could support them for the rest of their lives.

No surprise then that Yance Ford and his debut feature, the deeply personal and long-gestating “Strong Island,” emerged as the night’s biggest winner, pulling in wins for Outstanding Direction, Outstanding Debut, and Outstanding Nonfiction Feature Film. Ford’s win for Outstanding Direction was also a history-maker: the filmmaker is the first to ever win the award for a debut film.

At the free-wheeling and refreshingly laidback ceremony, James happily lobbied for a “campaign-free zone,” though even he couldn’t resist plugging his own “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” (nominated for the Audience Choice prize) when the time allowed. And the time allowed a lot, as the typically wry and deceptively straight-laced James reveled in delivering self-professed “dad humor” at every turn (in short, he killed).

But despite the informal feeling of the Cinema Eye Honors — easily the only awards ceremony where a live band is installed on stage to play in the winners — the concerns of the real world (and the awards world) couldn’t help but creep in. Some attendees sported #TimesUp stickers and pins, and “Cameraperson” filmmaker Kirsten Johnson joked that wearing one “worked out pretty well for James Franco.”

The Keepers

“The Keepers”


Joking aside, Johnson also used part of her awards presentation time to call attention to the gender and race disparity endemic even to documentary film, reading out breakdowns of each category’s nominees from a small pink notebook (one of the categories she presented, Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography, which she won last year, included no women). As she reminded the audience, “we’ve got work to do.”

Other filmmakers, like “The Keepers” filmmaker Ryan White, opted to stay positive about what’s been done and what’s to come, using his acceptance speech for Outstanding Achievement in Broadcast Nonfiction Filmmaking to speak to the “watershed moment” of the past few months, one that makes the story his film tells — about an unsolved murder and sexual abuse in the Catholic Church — all the more powerful. It’s the first award the film has won this season, and he dedicated it to his long-time producer Jessica Hargrave, who he said would be the one taking the actual statue home.

By the end of what became an increasingly more emotional evening (albeit one punctuated by still more James humor, including the introduction of an actual abacus prop, in a nod to his film), “Strong Island” had proven itself a rare beast with its historic directing win one of the few docs to ever win three awards at one ceremony. Ford ceded the stage to his producer Joslyn Barnes, who paused after being too choked up to speak, before expressing her joy: that she was in a room of her peers and, for once, no longer “set against each other in all this awards season fuckery.”

Check out the full list of Cinema Eye Honors nominees below, with winners noted in bold.

Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking

“City of Ghosts,” Directed and Produced by Matthew Heineman
“Ex Libris: The New York Public Library,” Directed and Produced by Frederick Wiseman
“Faces Places,” Directed by Agnès Varda and JR (Director), Produced by Rosalie Varda
“Last Men in Aleppo,” Directed by Feras Fayyad, Produced by Kareem Abeed, Stefan Kloos and Søren Steen Jespersen
“Quest,” Directed by Jonathan Olshefski, Produced by Sabrina Schmidt Gordon
“Strong Island,” Directed by Yance Ford, Produced by Joslyn Barnes and Yance Ford

Casting JonBenet

“Casting JonBenet”


Outstanding Achievement in Direction

Kitty Green, “Casting JonBenet”
Matthew Heineman, “City of Ghosts”
Yuri Ancarani, “The Challenge”
Frederick Wiseman, “Ex Libris: The New York Public Library”
Agnès Varda and JR, “Faces Places”
Yance Ford, “Strong Island”

Outstanding Achievement in Editing

Bill Morrison, “Dawson City: Frozen Time”
Joe Beshenkovsky, “Jane
TJ Martin, “LA92”
Keith Fraase and John Walter, “Long Strange Trip”
Lindsay Utz, “Quest”
Francisco Bello, Daniel Garber and David Barker, “The Reagan Show”


Outstanding Achievement in Production

Nominees to be Determined, “Brimstone and Glory”
Matthew Heineman, “City of Ghosts”
Heino Deckert, Ai Weiwei and Chin-Chin Yap, “Human Flow”
Kareem Abeed, Stefan Kloos and Søren Steen Jespersen, “Last Men in Aleppo”
Brenda Coughlin, Yoni Golijov and Laura Poitras, “Risk”

Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography

Tobias von dem Borne, “Brimstone and Glory”
Yuri Ancarani, Luca Nervegna and Jonathan Ricquebourg, “The Challenge”
Andrew Ackerman and Jeff Orlowski, “Chasing Coral”
TBD, “Human Flow”
Rodrigo Trejo Villanueva, “Machines”

Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Score

Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin, “Brimstone and Glory”
Francesco Fantini and Lorenzo Senni, “The Challenge”
Alex Somers, “Dawson City: Frozen Time”
Philip Glass, “Jane”
Dan Deacon, “Rat Film”
Hildur Gudnadóttir and Craig Sutherland, “Strong Island”

Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design or Animation

Chad Herschberger, “78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene”
Matt Schultz and Shawna Schultz, “Chasing Coral”
Grant Nellessen, “Citizen Jane: Battle for the City”
Daniel Gies and Emily Paige, “Let There Be Light”
Stefan Nadelman, “Long Strange Trip”

Brimstone & Glory

“Brimstone & Glory”

Oscilloscope Laboratories

Audience Choice Prize

“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” Directed by Steve James
“City of Ghosts,” Directed by Matthew Heineman
“Chasing Coral,” Directed by Jeff Orlowski
“Faces Places,” Directed by Agnès Varda and JR
“Jane,” Directed by Brett Morgen
“Kedi,” Directed by Ceyda Torun
“Quest,” Directed by Jonathan Olshefski
“Step,” Directed by Amanda Lipitz
“Whose Streets?,” Directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis
“The Work,” Directed by Gethin Aldous and Jairus McLeary

Outstanding Achievement in a Debut Feature Film

Viktor Jakovleski, “Brimstone and Glory”
Anna Zamecka, “Communion”
Rahul Jain, “Machines”
Theo Anthony, “Rat Film”
Yance Ford, “Strong Island”

Angela Davis in “13TH”


Outstanding Achievement in Broadcast Nonfiction Filmmaking

“13th,” Directed by Ava DuVernay, Produced by Ava DuVernay & Howard Barish, For Netflix: Executive Producers Ben Cotner, Adam Del Deo and Lisa Nishimura
“Abortion: Stories Women Tell,” Directed and Produced by Tracy Droz Tragos, For HBO Documentary Films: Executive Producer Sheila Nevins, Senior Producer Sara Bernstein
“Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds,” Directed by Alexis Bloom & Fisher Stevens, Produced by Alexis Bloom, Fisher Stevens, Julie Nives & Todd Fisher, For HBO Documentary Films: Executive Producer Sheila Nevins, Senior Producer Nancy Abraham
“Five Came Back,” Directed by Laurent Bouzereau, Produced by John Battsek & Laurent Bouzereau, For Netflix: Executive Producers Ben Cotner, Adam Del Deo and Lisa Nishimura
“The Keepers,” Directed by Ryan White, For Netflix: Executive Producers Ben Cotner, Jason Springarn-Koff and Lisa Nishimura
“Solitary: Inside Red Onion State Prison,” Directed and Produced by Kristi Jacobson, Produced by Katie Mitchell and Julie Goldman, For HBO Documentary Films: Executive Producer Sheila Nevins, Senior Producer Nancy Abraham

Spotlight Award

“Donkeyote,” Directed by Chico Pereira
“An Insignificant Man,” Directed by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla
“Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle,” Directed by Gustavo Salmerón
“Plastic China,” Directed by Jiuliang Wang
“Stranger in Paradise,” Directed by Guido Hendrikx
“Taste of Cement,” Directed by Ziad Kalthoum

Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Filmmaking

“Edith+Eddie,” Directed by Laura Checkoway
“Heroin(e),” Directed by Elaine McMillion Sheldon
“Little Potato,” Directed by Wes Hurley and Nathan M. Miller
“Polonaise,” Directed by Agnieszka Elbanowska
“The Rabbit Hunt,” Directed by Patrick Bresnan
“Ten Meter Tower,” Directed by Maximilien Van Aertryck & Axel Danielson

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