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2020 Awards

Each year, Hot Docs presents awards to Canadian and international filmmakers, including those for Festival films in competition and those recognizing emerging and established filmmakers. Unless otherwise noted, all prizes are awarded to the director of the winning film


Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award
Prayer for a Lost Mitten (D & P: Jean-François Lesage; Canada)
Sponsored by the Documentary Organization of Canada and Telefilm Canada, the award includes a $5,000 cash prize.

Special Jury Prize – Canadian Feature Documentary
Stateless (D: Michèle Stephenson; P: Jennifer Holness, Michèle Stephenson, Lea Marin; USA, Canada)
The award includes a $2,500 cash prize.

Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award
Ying Wang for The World Is Bright (Canada)
Given to a first or second-time Canadian filmmaker with a feature film in the Canadian Spectrum program, the award includes a $1,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs.

Honourable Mention - Emerging Canadian Filmmaker
Oksana Karpovych for Don’t Worry, the Doors Will Open (P: Ina Fichman, Judith Plamondon; Canada)

Best International Feature Documentary Award
Stray (D: Elizabeth Lo; P: Elizabeth Lo, Shane Boris, Ceylan Carhoglu (co-producer), Zeynep Koprulu (co-producer), Ina Fichman (executive producer); USA)
Supported by the Panicaro Foundation, the award includes a $10,000 cash prize courtesy of the Panicaro Foundation.

Special Jury Prize – International Feature Documentary
499 (D: Rodrigo Reyes; P: Gunter Hanfgarn (consulting producer), Su Kim (consulting producer), Sam Schild (associate producer), David Felix Sutcliffe (consulting producer & co-producer), Andrew Houchens, Inti Cordera; Mexico, USA)
Sponsored by A&E, the award includes a $2,500 cash prize.

Emerging International Filmmaker Award
Todd Chandler for Bulletproof (P: Danielle Varga, Todd Chandler; USA)
Given to a first or second-time international filmmaker with a feature film in the International Spectrum program, the award is supported by the Donner Canadian Foundation and includes a $1,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs.

Honourable Mention - Emerging International Filmmaker
Tanja Wol Sørensen for A Colombian Family (P: Rikke Tambo Andersen; Denmark)

Best Mid-Length Documentary Award
Mother-Child (D: Andrea Testa; P: Francisco Márquez, Luciana Piantanida, Andrea Perner; Argentina)
The award includes a $1,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs.

Honourable Mention - Best Mid-Length Documentary
Eyes and Arms (D & P: Panahbarkhoda Rezaee; Iran)

Best International Short Documentary Award
Unforgivable (D: Marlén Viñayo; P: Marlén Viñayo, Carlos Martínez; El Salvador)
The award includes a $1,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs.

Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary
Êmîcêtôsêt: Many Bloodlines (D: Theola Ross; P: Alex Bailey; Canada)
The award includes a $3,000 cash prize courtesy of John and Betty Youson.

Honourable Mention - Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary
In the Shadow of the Pines (D: Anne Koizumi; P: Sahar Yousefi; Canada)


Rogers Audience Award
During a special virtual presentation ceremony on the evening of Sunday, June 7, we announced the winners of the $50,000 CAD Rogers Audience Award. Each winner will receive a cash prize of $10,000 CAD.

You can watch the announcement on YouTube.

The winners are:

  1. The Walrus and the Whistleblower
  2. 9/11 Kids
  3. The Forbidden Reel
  4. First We Eat
  5. There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace

Top 20 Audience Favourites

1.) The Walrus and the Whistleblower
2.) 9/11 Kids
3.) Welcome to Chechnya
4.) The Forbidden Reel
5.) The 8th
6.) Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story
7.) Breaking the Silence
8.) Transhood
9.) Coded Bias
10.) Green Blood
11.) If It Were Love (tie)
11.) Love and Fury (tie)
13.) First We Eat
14.) Sanmao. The Desert Bride
15.) There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace
16.) The Reason I Jump
17.) Mein Vietnam
18.) Softie
19.) The Last Archer
20.) Dope Is Death

Top 5 Short Films

  1. Nancy’s Workshop
  2. Gun Killers
  3. The Lost Astronaut
  4. êmîcêtôcêt: Many Bloodlines
  5. Welcome Strangers

Top Mid-Length Films

  1. Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story
  2. The Song of the Butterflies
  3. Dark City Beneath the Beat
  4. Mother-Child
  5. Daddy


Hot Docs Outstanding Achievement Award
Stanley Nelson

Hot Docs Focus On Honouree
Raymonde Provencher

Don Haig Award
Montreal-based producer Bob Moore of EyeSteelFilm
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 comes with a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of the Don Haig Foundation.

Don Haig Award Pay It Forward Prize
Myanmar-based director and producer Snow (Hnin Ei Hlaing)
As part of the award, the recipient can name an emerging female documentary filmmaker to receive an All-Access pass to Hot Docs 2021.

The Lindalee Tracey Award
Salar Pashtoonyar for his film Bad Omen
The Award honours an emerging Canadian filmmaker with a passionate point of view, a strong sense of social justice and a sense of humour. The recipient receives a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of the Lindalee Tracey Fund, $5,000 in post-production services from Technicolor, and a beautiful hand-blown glass sculpture by Andrew Kuntz, specially commissioned to honour Lindalee.


Hot Docs Al Jazeera Short Pitch
Two winners each received $50,000 USD ($70,000 CAD) for a full commission. The winning project(s) will premiere on the Witness strand across Al Jazeera branded platforms.

Six Mile and Woodward
Found Poetry Films, Ontario
Pitched by: Erin Byrnes (producer and director), Allie Jaynes (co-producer), and Lucia Ho (associate producer)

Illegal Billboards
Pitched by: Cat Mills (director) and Felicity Justrabo (producer)

first look Pitch Prizes
Awarded to top Hot Docs Forum Pitches as determined by first look program participants.

1st prize of $30,000 CAD: Children of the Mist
D: Hà Lệ Diễm
P: Phuong Thao Tran, Swann Dubus
Production Company: Varan Vietnam Co., Ltd. (Vietnam)

2nd prize of $15,000 CAD: Just a Band
D: Anjali Nayar, Mbithi Masya
P: Wanuri Kahiu, Caryn Capotosto, Katie Doering, Anjali Nayar, Roger Ross Williams
Production Companies: Ink & Pepper Productions, Ltd., (Canada), Afrobubblegum (Kenya)

Honourable mention with a $2,000 stipend: Masha
D: Giedrė Žickytė
P: Giedrė Žickytė, Uldis Cekulis, Christine Le Goff
Production Companies: ZED SAS (France), Vides filmu studija, SIA (Latvia), VšĮ Moonmakers (Lithuania)

Corus-Hot Docs Forum Pitch Prize
$10,000 CAD cash prize is awarded to the best Canadian pitch at the Forum as voted on by attending international buyers.

D: Rémy Huberdeau, Sean Stiller
P: Lisa Jackson, Lauren Grant, Rémy Huberdeau
Production Companies: Door Number 3 Productions Inc. (Canada), Clique Pictures Inc. (Canada), Earth City Films Inc. (Canada), NFB (Canada)

2020 Juries


Rada Šešić
Rada Šešić is a festival programmer, film lecturer, film director. Born in former Yugoslavia, Rada lives in The Netherlands and is Head of the Documentary Competition at the Sarajevo Film Festival, takes part in selection of IDFA, is a program advisor of IFFRotterdam, takes part in selection of Hubert Bals Fund, is a reader for DOHA fund, teaches at the Master of film in Amsterdam, and is a mentor at various documentary workshops in Europe in Asia. Rada is also Artistic director of Eastern Neighbours FF in The Hague.

Lisa Valencia-Svensson
Lisa Valencia Svensson is an Emmy Award–winning producer and Head of Operations at Multitude Films. She co-produced Always in Season, which won the Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency at Sundance 2019. She produced Call Her Ganda(Tribeca 2018), nominated for the GLAAD Award for Outstanding Documentary and broadcast on POV. Her first documentary Herman’s House (Full Frame 2012) won an Emmy for Outstanding Arts & Culture Programming, and broadcast on POV. Her second feature Migrant Dreams (Hot Docs 2016) won the Canadian Hillman Prize, Canadian Association of Journalists award, and broadcast on Al Jazeera. Other credits include The World Before Her (Tribeca 2012) and Laila at the Bridge (CPH:DOX 2018).

Amar Wala
Producer/director Amar Wala was born in Mumbai but makes his home in Toronto. His debut feature, The Secret Trial 5, established him as a daring new voice in Canadian cinema. Using his work to deconstruct notions of race, class, and identity, Amar has also directed award-winning series for CBC, Viceland and Shopify Studios. He is currently Director and Consulting Producer on CBC’s acclaimed Arts series In the Making. In 2018, Amar received the Vanguard Award from DOC.


Chris Hegedus
Chris Hegedus has directed, shot, and edited documentaries for over forty years. In 2002 she won the DGA Award for Startup.com. With Pennebaker, Hegedus directed the 1992 Academy Award–nominated The War Room. Other films include Elaine Stritch at Liberty (Emmy Award), The Energy War (series), Town Bloody Hall, Moon Over Broadway, Depeche Mode 101, Kings of Pastry and Emmy-nominated Unlocking the Cage. Career awards include Hot Docs, IDA, Critic’s Choice and Doc NYC.

Orwa Nyrabia
Orwa Nyrabia is the Artistic Director of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. He was born in Syria where he worked as actor and as a journalist, before starting up the first independent documentary-specialized production company in the country, in 2002, together with his partner Diana el Jeiroudi. Later on in 2008, Nyrabia and El Jeiroudi co-founded the independent documentary film festival DOX BOX, which quickly became the Arab region’s leading documentary festival. Nyrabia moved to Egypt in 2012, then to Germany in 2013, where he continued producing award-winning international co-productions such as Dolls, A Woman from Damascus (IDFA 2007), Return to Homs (IDFA 2013 and Sundance 2014) and Silvered Water (Cannes 2014). Nyrabia tutored many up and coming filmmakers from around the world and served as juror for some of the world’s most influential film funds and festivals. He is a member of AMPAS, IDA, EDN. His films earned a long list of awards including a Sundance Grand Jury award and a Grierson Award and his work earned him accolades such as the George Polk Award, the Nestor Almendros Award and the Katrin Cartlidge Award. His work has been highlighted by media outlets such as 60 Minutes, NYT, WP, Le Monde.

Justine Pimlott
Justine Pimlott is a multi-award-winning producer based at the National Film Board of Canada’s Ontario Studio. With over 25 years in the industry she has a long history of bringing stories that are often marginalized to the screen.

Prior to joining the NFB she co-founded Red Queen Productions with Maya Gallus where her credits included: Punch Like A Girl, Fag Hags, Girl Inside, Dish Women Waitressing & The Art of Service and The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche, among others.

Her NFB credits include: What Walaa Wants (Berlin, Hot Docs 2018 Jury Prize Best Canadian Feature Documentary, TIFF Top Ten Film, CSA nominee for Best Feature Length Documentary); A Better Man (Hot Docs 2017, Doc NYC 2017), Camera Test - Five Feminist Minutes (Hot Docs 2019), the online LGBTQ2+ short doc series Five @ 50 (2019), Borealis (Hot Docs 2020) and the upcoming release Inconvenient Indian.


João Federici
Brazillian and based in California, USA, Federici is a BA graduate in Arts. He is the World Cinema Programmer of Mill Valley Film Festival (California, USA) and Director of Programming of MixBrasil Festival (São Paulo, Brazil). He has collaborated and also served on numerous juries and film festival selection committees. Federici’s background is in theatre, film production and film festival operations; his productions won the most prestigious awards in Brazil and overseas. A successful fundraiser, with in-depth experience in grant fund management, and program development. Photo by Roman Cho

Monika Navarro
Monika Navarro recently joined Firelight Media as the Senior Director of Artist Programs. Monika comes to Firelight from the Tribeca Film Institute, where she oversaw documentary, scripted, education, shorts, and interactive programs. Prior to that, she was at the Independent Television Service (ITVS), where she managed content and funding initiatives, oversaw a development portfolio, and was a consulting producer on Las Sandinistas (SXSW 2018), The First Rainbow Coalition (Independent Lens), and A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem (Tribeca 2019). Monika has more than a decade of experience producing for public media, from directing her debut film Lost Souls (Animas Perdidas) which premiered on Independent Lens, to producing for World Channel, American Documentary and the Peabody-award winning PBS series Latino Americans.

Denae Peters
Denae Peters is a Program Officer at Perspective Fund, a grant-making organization supporting nonfiction media, where she oversees media impact infrastructure and field-building initiatives. Previously, she led the strategy and implementation of non-theatrical impact campaigns at impact firms Picture Motion and Film Sprout. She recently served as the TIFF 2019 documentary programming associate and programmer for TIFF 2019 Doc Conference. She has served on selection committees for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, the National Endowment for the Arts, DOC NYC and the Tribeca Film Festival.


Sami Khan
Sami Khan is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker whose work has screened at the Toronto, Tribeca, Hot Docs, and Mumbai Film Festivals and been supported by the Sundance and Tribeca Film Institutes, Rooftop Films, IFP, the NBC/Universal Director’s Fellowship, and the Berlinale. The Last Out, Sami’s first feature documentary, was slated to premiere at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. The film tells the harrowing tale of four Cuban baseball players and their dangerous journeys out of their homeland and into the United States.

Kathleen McInnis
Kathleen McInnis (See-Through Films) consults with emerging World Cinema filmmakers to strategically merge their creative and business development. Kathleen has over 30 years experience in programming at festivals such as Seattle, Palm Springs, Aspen and TIFF, and is a strategic publicist and producer for films premiering at Sundance, Berlin, Karlovy Vary, Toronto, and Cannes. She currently also curates the New Works-in-Progress Forum at Seattle Int’l Film Festival.

Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers
Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers is a filmmaker, writer, and actor. She is Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) from the Kainai First Nation (Blood Reserve) as well as Sámi from northern Norway. Tailfeathers was the 2018 Sundance Institute Merata Mita Film Fellow and is an alumnus of the Berlinale Talent Lab, the Hot Docs Accelerator Lab, the CFC/NFB/Ford Foundation Open Immersion Virtual Reality Lab, the Whistler Film Festival Aboriginal Film Fellowship, and the International Sámi Film Institute Indigenous Film Fellowship. Her short documentary, Bihttoš, was included in the TIFF Top Ten Canadian Shorts and was also nominated for a Canadian Screen Award and a Leo Award for Best Short Documentary. Her narrative feature-length directorial debut, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, co-written and co-directed with Kathleen Hepburn, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in the Generation Program and won numerous awards including both the Toronto and Vancouver Film Critics Best Canadian Feature Award. She is currently directing a feature-length documentary about the opiate crisis in her home community of Kainai with the support of the National Film Board of Canada as well as Hot Docs’ CrossCurrents International Doc Fund.

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Founding Partner

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Presenting Partners

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Major Supporters

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