Danish filmmaker Christian Einshøj’s “The Mountains” has won Hot Docs’ Best International Feature Documentary Award and a Cnd. $10,000 cash prize, it was announced this morning in Toronto at the festival’s awards ceremony, held at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Produced by Made In Copenhagen, the film is an autobiographical family portrait using 30 years of home video, 75,000 photos, and a superhero road trip to explore the tragedy that led to the emotional distance between the men in the family. “The Mountains,” which premiered earlier this year at CPH:DOX, now automatically qualifies for consideration in the Academy’s Best Documentary Feature category without the standard theatrical run, provided it complies with Academy rules. Cats and Docs is handling sales.
Einshøj also picked up the Emerging International Filmmaker Award, which includes a Cdn. $3,000 cash prize supported by the Donner Canadian Foundation. The jury said, “This unique, eloquent, and deeply honest look at a family told through various lenses was captivating. Christian Einshøj uses humor to tell a deeply personal story that anyone who is part of a family can relate to.”
Montreal-based filmmaker Denys Desjardins’ “I Lost My Mom,” about the filmmaker’s struggles to ensure his elderly mother can live with comfort and dignity in Quebec’s long-term care system, won Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award and a Cnd. $10,000 cash prize.
The Canadian feature documentary jury said that veteran filmmaker Desjardin—who shot the film over five years — “made something sublime out of limits. In a time of closures he made a handmade work of art that opens empathy. This is a work of difficult love. This is deeply heartbreaking work.”
“I Lost My Mom” is the most recent film in Desjardins’ series of projects exploring seniors and housing. The film is produced by Centaure Films and distributed in Canada by Les Films du 3 Mars.
The Canadian feature competition section also saw the DGC Special Jury Prize —Canadian Feature Documentary and a Cdn $5,000 cash prize, sponsored by the Directors’ Guild of Canada, go to Justine Harbonnier’s “Caiti Blues,” about an ex-New Yorker now living in New Mexico striving to revive her dream of singing on Broadway. The jury noted, “In a lonely universe, we travel through a world of imagination in search of identity. Music fractures and interweaves in a film about struggling to become the person you dream of and are in search of. This is deeply engaging filmmaking.”
The International feature competition section saw the Special Jury Prize and Cdn $5,000 cash award, sponsored by A&E, to Edward Lovelace’s “Name Me Lawand,” in which a deaf Kurdish boy thrives at a U.K. school after a treacherous journey from Iraq only to face deportation. The jury said it was “touched by this epic yet intimate story of a refugee family who had no choice but to leave their home to create a life for their deaf son.”
The International Feature jury also gave an honorable mention to Everardo González’s “A Wolfpack Named Ernesto.”
The Canadian feature-length competition saw two new awards introduced this year. The Bill Nemtin Award for Best Social Impact Documentary, which recognizes the producers of a Canadian Spectrum film that has the greatest potential to create social impact, went to Matt King and Andrew Ferguson of Zack Russell’s “Someone Lives Here.” The $10,000 cash prize supports the producer’s outreach and marketing activities for the film. The jury remarks, “Creating safe spaces against all odds, trying to fight humiliating circumstances, the carpenter constructs little safe heavens while authorities seem not to appreciate his efforts. This important and well-constructed film leaves us asking: how should we be living alongside each other?”
The John Kastner Award went to Jean-Philippe Marquis’ “Silvicola,” which explores the impact of forestry in Canada’s Pacific Northwest through visuals and the voices of workers. The award, which comes with a Cdn. $5,000 cash prize, is given to a feature in Canadian Spectrum that reflects “courage and compassion that embodies masterful and audacious storytelling, meticulous observation, and a profound trust between the director and the people who share their stories.” The jury stated, “Many films ask the question, how are we meant to exist upon a living being, our Earth. This is a masterwork of patience and complexity that doesn’t seek easy answers, and for that we lean in with humility and heartache. This is a film that holds questions we should all be asking ourselves.”
The Earl A. Glick Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award and a $3,000 cash prize, courtesy of the Earl A. Glick Family, went to Dominique Chaumont for “Veranada,” set in the Argentinian plains. The jury noted, “Beautiful images and a mesmerizing soundtrack make ‘Veranada’ a truly authentic cinematographic experience, transporting you to a world you need to know.”
Luke Fowler’s “Being in a Place – A Portrait of Margaret Tait” won Best Mid-Length Documentary award and a $3,000 cash prize, sponsored by British Pathé. In the same category, the jury also acknowledged Ananta Thitanat’s “Scala” with an honorable mention.
Quebec filmmaker Gaëlle Graton won the Lindalee Tracey Award, which comes with a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of the Lindalee Tracey Fund, $5,000 award in post-production services provided by SIM, and a hand-blown glass sculpture. The annual award honors an emerging Canadian filmmaker with a “passionate point of view, a strong sense of social justice and a sense of humor.”
Marjan Khosravi’s “Mrs. Iran’s Husband,” an exploration of family and labor in Iran, won the Best International Short Documentary Award; Megan Durnford’s “Last Respects,” about a Montreal priest’s annual ceremony celebrating the lives of the unclaimed,” won the Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary. Both docs also won a $3,000 cash prize and now qualify for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the Academy Awards. The short docs jury acknowledged Micah Levin’s “Dear Ani” with an honorable mention.
The Scotiabank Docs for Schools Student Choice Award went to Bethann Hardison and Frédéric Tcheng’s “Invisible Beauty.” The awards comes with a $5,000 cash prize, courtesy of Scotiabank.
Chinese American documentarian Christine Choy received the 2023 Outstanding Achievement Award, and her work was featured in this year’s Retrospective Program. Earlier in the festival, Canadian producer Bonnie Thompson, producer of Cam Christiansen’s “Echo of Everything,” 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 Hot Docs in recognition of his/her creative vision, entrepreneurship and track record for nurturing emerging talent and comes with a $5,000 cash prize.
The Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian documentary will be announced on Saturday, the last day of the festival. The top Canadian feature in the audience poll will win a $50,000 cash prize, courtesy of the Rogers Group of Funds. The overall Audience Award winner will be announced after the festival.