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Laura Blum

Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for She also publishes on Thalo



Hot Docs Divvies Awards

Leave Them Laughing. It's the film that took the Special Jury Prize – Canadian Feature at the May 7 awards bash for Toronto's Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (April 29 to May 9, 2010). And it could be the motto for the 17th annual fest, which played to packed audiences even as business slackened at its annual market.

The film, by Oscar-winning director John Zaritsky, is about laughing in the face of terminal illness. How to live despite tough odds is a challenge the documentary community knows all too well.

So the $72,000 worth of cash infusions administered at North America's largest non-fiction festival is Rx that went down especially easy with its recipients.

For his part, Zaritsky scored a $10,000 hit, courtesy of the Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation. Nine other awards were dispensed at the Hot Docs Awards Presentation, held at the Isabel Bader Theatre in downtown Toronto. CBC's Jian Ghomeshi emcee'd.

A Film Unfinished, Yael Hersonski's look at an incompleted Nazi propaganda film shot in the Warsaw Ghetto, took Best International Feature Award. Hot Docs is to thank for this $10,000 cash fix.

The Special Jury Prize - International Feature went to The Oath. Laura Poitras's layered essay about Osama bin Laden's former driver and his Guantanamo Bay-held brother-in-law "challenges our preconceived notions about radical Islam," per the jury statement. The Ontario Media Development Corporation sponsored the award, involving a $5,000 shot of cash given by Hot Docs.

Shelley Saywell walked away with Best Canadian Feature Award for her expose of honor killing in North America, In The Name Of The Family. "We were all moved by the young teenage Muslim women struggling to figure out their own identities, caught between two opposing worlds, to whom it gave voice," went the jury statement. The Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation sprang for the $15,000 prize, which is sponsored by the Documentary Organization of Canada.

Tomer Haymann's I Shot My Love earned top honor in the Mid-Length Documentary category. The film follows the Israeli filmmaker's relationship with the German lover he met when presenting his film, Paper Dolls, at the Berlin Film Festival. Awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts, the $3,000 prize comes courtesy of Hot Docs.

Tussilago, by Swedish director Jonas Odell, was triaged as Best Short Documentary Award. The jury commended this hybrid live action/animation about the former girlfriend of West German terrorist Norbert Kröcher for its "innovative and ever-evolving use of animation to recreate a historical era." Playback is behind the award, which carries a $3,000 sum accorded by Hot Docs.

Jeff Malmberg, director of Marwencol, bagged the HBO Documentary Films Emerging Artist Award. The film tracks unfolding dramas in the miniature WW II-era town that beating victim Mark Hogencamp constructed as art therapy. In its statement, the jury acknowledged that "Hogencamp, robbed of his memory, creates a fantasy world through which he rediscovers his identity and realizes his true self." HBO Documentary Films proffered the award.

This year's Outstanding Achievement Award was presented to acclaimed UK filmmaker Kim Longinotto. The Hot Docs Board of Directors did the honors. Spanning such award-heavy, female-centric portraits as Rough Aunties, Divorce Iranian Style and Sisters in Law, Longinotto's globally minded work commanded a retrospective at the 2010 Hot Docs.

Philip Lyall and Nimisha Mukerji snared the Don Haig Award, set up by documentary to encourage emerging Canadian documentarians. Lyall and Mukerji are the makers of Hot Docs' 2009 official selection and audience pick, 65_RedRoses. Awarded by the Don Haig Foundation, the prize packs a $20,000 cash bounty underwritten by documentary.

Twenty-year-old director Ayanie Mohamed went home with the Lindalee Tracey Award, which gives props to an emerging Canadian filmmaker with "a passionate point of view, a strong sense of social justice and a sense of humour."  As part of the accolade, Mohamed will pocket $6,000 in cash prize and $3,000 in film stock donated by Kodak Canada.

Jurors of the Canadian features were Now magazine CEO Alice Klein; Liz Mermin, director of Horses; and IDFA's Martijn te Pas. The international features jury brought together Gonzalo Arijón, director of Eyes Wide Open - Exploring Today’s South America; Directors Guild of Canada president Sturla Gunnarsson; and Chris Hegedus, co-director of Kings of Pastry. Serving on the short and mid-length films jury were CPH:DOX festival director Tine Fischer; Judy Gladstone, executive director of Canada's Bravo!FACT foundation; and Havana Film Festival programmer and film critic Alberto Ramos Ruiz.

During its 11-day swing, the Festival screened 166 films from more than 40 countries. Stay tuned May 10, when the winners of the Hot Docs Audience Award and audience top ten favorites will be revealed.




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