‘Blue Island,’ ‘Geographies of Solitude’ Win Top Awards at Hot Docs | #oscars | #academywards

Chan Tze Woon’s “Blue Island,” a doc-narrative hybrid exploring Hong Kong’s recent protest movement and ensuing crackdown, won Hot Docs’ Best International Feature Documentary Award and a Cnd. $10,000 cash prize, 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 interwoven with traditional documentary forms to create a rich, socially-grounded cinematic tapestry.”

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

The International Feature Documentary Competition section saw the Special Jury Prize and Cdn $5,000 cash awarded to Laura Faerman and Marina Weis’s “The Wind Blows the Border,” about an Indigenous women in Brazil who battled agribusiness expansion on her community’s ancestral land. The jury stated it appreciated how the film “documents an unfolding natural crisis rooted in human social conflict.”

The Emerging International Filmmaker Award, which comes with a $3,000 cash prize, was presented to Bogna Kowalczyk for her debut feature “Boylesque,” a portrait of Poland’s oldest drag queen.

Montreal-based filmmaker Jacquelyn Mills’ “Geographies of Solitude,” about self-taught environmentalist Zoe Lucas’ life and work on Nova Scotia’s remote Sable Island, won Hot Docs’ Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award and a Cnd. $10,000 cash prize.

The jury cited the film—which Mills directed, shot in 16mm, and edited—for its “deft ability to reveal the complex intersections between the natural world and humanity’s excesses on a singular isolated island through strongly crafted and arresting visual and aural storytelling.” The film is produced by Mills and Rosalie Chicoine Perreault.

“Geographies,” which recently won best film in the international competition section at South Korea’s Jeonju Intl. Film Festival and picked up three prizes at the Berlin Film Festival, where it premiered earlier this year, also earned Mills the Earl A. Glick Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award, which is given to a Canadian filmmaker with a first or second feature-length film in competition. The award comes with a Cdn. $3,000 cash prize.

The Canadian feature competition section also saw the DGC Special Jury Prize—Canadian Feature Documentary and a Cdn $5,000 cash prize go to Zaynê Akyol’s “Rojek,” which captures the revealing conversations between Islamic State members in Syrian detention centers, and which the jury cited for its “sensitive curiosity about its subjects’ lived experiences and internal lives, self-reflexive interrogation of the documentary filmmaking process.” The jury also gave an honorable mention to Noura Kevorkian’s “Batata.”

“Rewind & Play,” in which filmmaker Alain Gomis revisits a 1969 interview with Thelonious Monk on French television, won the Best Mid-Length Documentary Award and a Cdn. $3,000 cash prize,

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

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

The Lindalee Tracey Award, which comes with a $5,000 award 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 Program. Earlier in the festival, EyeSteelFilm cofounder Mila Aung-Thwin, a producer and editor on “Midwives,” was named as 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, entrepreneurship, and commitment to nurturing emerging talent; the award comes with a $5,000 cash prize.

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


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