Hot Docs is pleased to announce this year’s award-winning Festival films and filmmakers. The Hot Docs Awards Presentation, hosted by Garvia Bailey, host of Good Morning Toronto! on Jazz.FM91, took place on Friday, May 6, at the Isabel Bader Theatre, Toronto. Twelve awards and $67,000 in cash and prizes were presented to Canadian and international filmmakers, including awards for Festival films in competition and those recognizing emerging and established filmmakers.
The Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award was presented to KONELĪNE: our land beautiful (D: Nettie Wild; P: Betsy Carson; Canada), a breathtaking look at the Tahltan First Nation who’ve inhabited remote northwestern British Columbia for thousands of years, and whose land attracts mining and hunting interests. Sponsored by the Documentary Organization of Canada, the award includes a $10,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs. Jury statement: “KONELĪNE: our land beautiful is a visually arresting tone poem of a film. The jury was impressed with the way it balanced political fair mindedness with a clear sense of the importance of the social issue at stake. Every member of the jury noted technical mastery in elements such as sound design, cinematography and editing. KONELĪNE was paced with maturity and sophistication and demonstrated substantial faith in and respect for its audience.” KONELĪNE: our land beautiful screens again on Saturday, May 7, at Hart House Theatre.
The Special Jury Prize – Canadian Feature Documentary was presented to The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (D&P: Brett Story; Canada, USA), a look at the communities and industries that have grown alongside the American prison complex. Sponsored by the Directors Guild of Canada and DGC Ontario, the award includes a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs. Jury statement: “Elegant, haunting and vividly affecting, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes travels some familiar ground but with fresh eyes, nuance and a love for its subjects that was compelling and impossible to resist. It is beautifully executed and demonstrates a high level of craft. We await with great anticipation this filmmaker’s future work.” The Prison in Twelve Landscapes screens again on Saturday, May 7, at the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.
The Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award, sponsored by Jameson First Shot, is given to a first or second-time Canadian filmmaker with a feature film in the Canadian Spectrum program. The award includes a $3,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs and was presented to directors Sébastien Rist and Aude Leroux-Lévesque for Living with Giants (Canada), which looks at the story of a young Inuk hunter in remote Inukjuak and his community that must unite to heal after a violent incident. Jury statement: “Living with Giants is a gut-wrenching and intimate portrait of a life and a community. Gorgeously shot, it is attentive to the way the ordinary details of day-to day-life accumulate in ways both beautiful and tragic. These filmmakers have shown remarkable skill and patience with the material. We look forward to seeing what comes next for this remarkable team.” Living with Giants screens again on Saturday, May 7, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
The jury also acknowledged the film Random Acts of Legacy (D&P: Ali Kazimi; Canada) with an honourable mention. Jury Statement: “We felt we could not end our deliberations without acknowledging Random Acts of Legacy. The legacies in question in this masterfully crafted film are personal, cultural and technological. The filmmaker skillfully pulls a surprisingly rich and textured story from a relatively small cache of found footage. It causes us to pause and consider the ephemeral means by which we record and capture our most important moments and reminds us of the power of good, old-fashioned celluloid film.” Random Acts of Legacy screens again on Sunday, May 8, at Innis Town Hall.
The Best International Feature Documentary Award was presented to Brothers (D: Aslaug Holm; P: Tore Buvarp; Norway), a look at two brothers who grow from toddlers to teenagers as captured by their filmmaker mother. Sponsored by Panicaro Foundation, the award includes a $10,000 cash prize courtesy of Panicaro Foundation. Jury statement: “The jury awards the Best International Feature Documentary prize to Brothers for its lyrical understanding of the passage of time, strong development of character and the deep emotional resonance of its story. Through her unique ability to skillfully navigate the challenging course between motherhood and filmmaker, Aslaug Holm demonstrates a rare degree of artistic achievement and makes a profound contribution to the art of documentary.”
The Special Jury Prize – International Feature Documentary was presented to God Knows Where I Am (D: Todd Wider, Jedd Wider; P: Brian Ariotti, Todd Wider, Jedd Wider; USA), an intimate and deeply troubling account of mental illness revealed through the mysterious death of a woman in a New Hampshire farmhouse. Sponsored by A&E, the award includes a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs. Jury statement: “A film of great beauty and tenderness that gradually reveals a confounding mental illness, this film is a human story at its heart. Ultimately, it illuminates a hidden problem of vast proportion with an epic yet intimate cinematic vision.” God Knows Where I Am screens again on Saturday, May 7, at the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.
The Emerging International Filmmaker Award was presented to director Mike Day for The Islands and the Whales (UK, Denmark), a look at the lives of Faroe Islanders who have long hunted pilot whales for subsistence, but whose traditions are now threatened. The award includes a $3,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs. Jury statement: “It became clear to the jury that over the course of filmmaking that the director penetrated the lives of his subjects with greater and greater intimacy as time passed. By resisting the temptation to fall back on cliché or stereotype, the director subtly and sensitively presents a culture facing wrenching decisions about its future while maintaining strong ties to its past.”
The award for Best Mid-Length Documentary was presented to Dugma: The Button (D: Paul S. Refsdal; P: Ingvil Giske; Norway), which captures the heart-stopping stories of two “martyrdom seekers” in an al-Qaeda unit on the front lines of the Syrian Civil War who are about to embark on a suicide bombing. The award includes a $3,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs. Jury statement: “The filmmaker took great personal risk and achieved incredible access to present a very humanizing portrait. This film challenges our perceptions of what it means to be a martyr; the perceived enemy of the Western world.” Dugma: The Button screens again on Sunday, May 8, at the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.
In the Best Mid-Length Documentary category, the jury also acknowledged the film La Laguna (D&P: Aaron Schock; USA, Mexico) with an honourable mention. Jury statement: “La Laguna is a timeless piece of poetry on the changes and challenges we each must face in our lives through other-worldly cinematography and emotional resonance.” La Laguna screens again on Sunday, May 8, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
The Best Short Documentary Award was presented to The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere (D: Mickey Duzyj; P: Mona Panchal; USA), the fascinating little-known story of racehorse Haru Urara, an underdog that inspired Japan during its economic depression in 2021 and recalibrated its value system. The award includes a $3,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs. Jury statement: “The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere is a moving and revealing window into a culture that sometimes is quiet and remote. A potent portrait of the power of never giving up, we acknowledge the ambition and creativity of the filmmaking.” The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere screens again on Sunday, May 8, at the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.
Hot Docs is an Academy Award qualifying festival for short documentaries and, as winner of the Best Short Documentary Award, The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere will qualify for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the annual Academy Awards without the standard theatrical run, provided it complies with Academy rules.
In the Best Short Documentary category, the jury also acknowledged the film What Happened to Her (D&P: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan; USA) with an honourable mention. Jury statement: “A well-crafted and edited film, while uncomfortable to watch, What Happened to Her reveals a truth about our desensitization of violence towards women in media.” What Happened to Her screens again on Saturday, May 7, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
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 Michael Chen. The recipient received a $5000 cash prize courtesy of the Lindalee Tracey Fund, $5000 in post-production services from Technicolor, and a beautiful hand-blown glass sculpture by Andrew Kuntz, specially commissioned to honour Lindalee.
The Hot Docs Board of Directors acknowledged Steve James as the recipient of the 2021 Hot Docs Outstanding Achievement Award.
Toronto-based producer Ed Barreveld was presented with the Don Haig Award, which is given to an outstanding independent Canadian producer with a film in the festival in recognition of his/her creative vision, entrepreneurship and track record for nurturing emerging talent. The award came with a $10,000 cash prize courtesy of the Don Haig Foundation and Telefilm Canada. As part of the award, the recipient can name an emerging female documentary filmmaker to receive a $5,000 cash prize, courtesy of Telefilm Canada, and professional development opportunities at the Hot Docs Festival to further her career path. Barreveld named Toronto-based filmmaker Shasha Nakhai as recipient of the Don Haig Award Pay It Forward Prize.
Earlier in the week, Iikka Vehkalahti, former commissioning editor for YLE and current executive producer of IV Films Ltd, Rough Cut Service and Dare to Dream Asia, received the 2021 Doc Mogul Award at a special luncheon.
The 2021 awards for films in competition were determined by four juries.
The Canadian Feature Documentary Jury: Abigail Disney, CEO and President of Fork Films; Richard Abramowitz, innovative leader in independent film distribution and marketing; Vijay Vaidyanathan, CEO of Optimal Asset Management.
The International Feature Documentary Jury: Irene Taylor Brodsky, Oscar-nominated and Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker; Ken Jacobson, Director of Educational Programs and Strategic Partnerships at the International Documentary Association; Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, director of Sonita.
The Mid-Length Jury: Tom Oyer, Awards Manager at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Marie Nelson, Vice President, News, Public Affairs and Independent Film for PBS; Rosie Dransfeld, director and 2021 Focus On honouree.
The Shorts Jury: Sarah Lash, Acquisitions Consultant for Condé Nast Entertainment; Nimisha Mukerji, director of Tempest Storm; Fred Joubaud, Director of International Sales and Digital Acquisitions at Tricon Films & Television.
The Vimeo On Demand Audience Award and audience top ten favourite films of the 2021 Festival, determined by audience ballot, will be announced on Monday, May 9. Also announced on that day is the Canadian Documentary Promotion Award, awarded to the independently-produced feature-length Canadian documentary with a Canadian director that receives the highest rating in the audience poll. A $25,000 cash prize, courtesy of Telefilm Canada, will be awarded to support the marketing and promotion of the film to new Canadian and international audiences.