‘Blue Island’, ‘Geographies of Solitude’ Win Top Awards at Hot Docs

Chan Tze Woon’s “Blue Island,” a doc-narrative hybrid exploring Hong Kong’s recent protest movement and ensuing crackdown, won Best International Documentary from Hot Docs and a Cnd. Cash prize of $10,000, it was announced Saturday in Toronto at the festival’s awards ceremony, held at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

The film was cited by the jury for its “evocative use of re-enactments intertwined with traditional documentary forms to create a rich, socially grounded cinematic tapestry”.

The North American rights to “Blue Island” were acquired by New York-based documentary distributor Icarus Films ahead of the film’s world premiere at Hot Docs, which is an Oscar-qualifying festival for feature-length documentaries. Produced by Peter Yam, “Blue Island” now automatically qualifies for consideration in the Academy’s Best Documentary Feature category without the standard theatrical release, provided it complies with Academy rules.

The International Documentary Feature Competition section saw the Special Jury Prize and $5,000 Canadian cash awarded to Laura Faerman and Marina Weis’ “The Wind Blows the Border,” about an indigenous woman in Brazil who fought against the expansion of agribusiness on the ancestral land of his community. The jury said they liked the way the film “documents an ongoing natural crisis rooted in human social conflict”.

The Emerging International Filmmaker Award, which comes with a $3,000 cash prize, went to Bogna Kowalczyk for her debut feature ‘Boylesque’, a portrayal of Poland’s oldest drag queen.

“Geographies of Solitude,” by Montreal filmmaker Jacquelyn Mills, about the life and work of self-taught ecologist Zoe Lucas on Nova Scotia’s Sable Island, won Best Canadian Feature from Hot Docs and a Cnd price. Prize money of $10,000.

The jury cited the film – which Mills directed, shot on 16mm and edited – for its “skillful ability to reveal the complex intersections between the natural world and the excesses of humanity on a singular remote island through visual storytelling. and auditory strongly designed and striking”. The film is produced by Mills and Rosalie Chicoine Perreault.

“Geographies,” which recently won Best Film in the International Competition Section at Jeonju Intl. Film Festival and won three awards at the Berlin Film Festival, where it premiered earlier this year, also earned Mills the Earl A. Glick Award for Emerging Canadian Filmmaker, which is given to a Canadian filmmaker with a first or second feature film in competition. The price comes with a CDN. $3,000 cash prize.

The Canadian Feature Film Competition section also saw the DGC Special Jury Prize — Canadian Feature Film and a cash prize of C$5,000 to Zaynê Akyol’s “Rojek,” which captures the revealing conversations between members of the Islamic State in Syrian detention centers, and which the jury cited for its “sensitive curiosity for the lived experiences and inner lives of its subjects, a self-reflective interrogation of the process of making the documentary”. The jury also awarded an honorable mention to “Batata” by Noura Kevorkian.

“Rewind & Play”, in which filmmaker Alain Gomis revisits a 1969 interview with Thelonious Monk on French television, won the prize for best documentary medium-length and a Cdn. $3,000 cash prize,

Amy Bench’s “More Than I Remember,” about a family displaced by civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, won Best International Short Documentary; Kitra Cahana’s “Perfecting the Art of Longing,” about a quadriplegic rabbi cut off from his loved ones during lockdown, won the Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Documentary Short. Each short also won a cash prize of $3,000 and qualified for the Oscars’ Short Subject Documentary category.

The Scotiabank Docs for Schools Student Choice Award, which is determined by a student survey conducted as part of the festival’s Docs for Schools program, went to “Navalny” by Daniel Roher. The prize comes with a cash prize of $5,000

The Lindalee Tracey Prize, which comes with a $5,000 prize in post-production services and a hand-blown glass sculpture, went to Iranian-Canadian filmmaker Avazeh Shahnavaz. The annual award honors an emerging Canadian filmmaker with “a passionate point of view, a strong sense of social justice and a sense of humour.”

Indian filmmaker Anand Patwardhan received the 2022 Outstanding Achievement Award and his work was featured in this year’s retrospective programme. Earlier in the festival, EyeSteelFilm co-founder Mila Aung-Thwin, producer and editor of “Midwives,” was named the recipient of this year’s Don Haig Award, which is given to an outstanding independent Canadian producer with a film in the festival in recognition of their creative vision, entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to nurturing emerging talent; the award comes with a cash prize of $5,000.

The Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary will be announced on Sunday, the last day of Hot Docs. The top three Canadian feature films in the audience poll will share a cash prize of $50,000. The grand winner of the public prize will be announced after the festival.

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