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Hot Docs 2020 Award Winners Announced

Hot Docs is pleased to announce the winning films in this year’s official competition and the recipients of additional awards honouring Canadian filmmakers. Juries deliberated during the opening week of Hot Docs online industry market, which launched April 30, and eleven awards and $42,000 in cash and prizes were awarded, including awards for official selections in competition and those recognizing emerging and established filmmakers.

Starting May 28, more than 140 official Festival selections, including many of the winning films, will be available to Ontario audiences for at-home viewing as part of Hot Docs Festival Online, available at hotdocs.ca.

During Hot Docs Festival Online, audiences will also be able to vote online for the $50,000 Rogers Audience Award, courtesy of Rogers Group of Funds. The top five Canadian films as determined by audience poll will each receive $10,000. The winners will be announced during an virtual live event on Sunday, June 7.


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.

Jury statement: “Director Jean-François Lesage’s instincts for storytelling are on full display in this beautifully crafted film. The jury was drawn in by Lesage’s clever and tender approach that shows a true love for his subjects.”


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.

Jury statement: “Director Michèle Stephenson has created a powerful and nuanced exploration of the lives and struggles of Dominicans of Haitian descent. The stories of those fighting for justice are woven together with evocative poetic sequences and intimate personal moments, resulting in a poignant portrait of people determined to resist centuries-old forces of racism and oppression.”


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.

Jury statement: “The jury was deeply moved by this brave indictment of Canada’s immigration system, told through a tender portrait of family, mental health and migration. The World is Bright is the kind of film Canada needs to make more often.”

In the Emerging Canadian Filmmaker category, the jury would also like to acknowledge Oksana Karpovych for Don’t Worry, the Doors Will Open (P: Ina Fichman, Judith Plamondon; Canada) with an honourable mention.

Jury statement: “With a sharp curious eye, the filmmaker takes us on a journey through the everyday struggle of common men in the post-revolutionary society. Filmed with striking poetry and love for people, these highly atmospheric and intense cinematic encounters show an enormous talent of the young female director Oksana Karpovych.”


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.

Jury statement: “The jury was moved by the strong visual storytelling and unique approach in this extraordinary feature debut from filmmaker Elizabeth Lo. Lo has given us a simple outcast story that reveals much more about our own humanity.”

Hot Docs is an Academy Award qualifying festival for international feature documentaries, and as the winner of this award Stray wwill qualify for consideration in the Best Documentary Feature category of the annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules.


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.

Jury statement: “Rodrigo Reyes has crafted a poetic and beautiful film, that carries a consistent vision throughout. 499 successfully implements hybrid form and delivers a parable that parallels situations in today’s world.”


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.

Jury statement: “Todd Chandler’s first feature documentary, Bulletproof is a stylized, visual essay, that had the jury cycling through a range of emotions while watching. The film clearly shows off the filmmaker’s talent, creativity, and visual empathy.”

In the Emerging International Filmmaker category, the jury would also like to acknowledge Tanja Wol Sørensen for A Colombian Family (P: Rikke Tambo Andersen; Denmark) with an honourable mention.


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.

Jury statement: “A close-up look at young mothers in Argentina (who could be young women anywhere in the world), this film features powerful and restrained storytelling, from its poetic black and white cinematography to the clarity of the voices of the niña-mamas as they articulate their fears, desires, and dreams for themselves and their children.”

In the Best Mid-Length Documentary category, the jury would also like to acknowledge Eyes and Arms (D & P: Panahbarkhoda Rezaee; Iran) with an honourable mention.

Jury statement: “This tender portrait of a marriage captures the delicate choreography of an intimate partnership—this loving couple with disabilities are the players and their humble home in Iran is the stage.”


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.

Jury statement: “For its poetic, beautifully textured portrayal of a character caught between worlds; a commitment to humanizing the story within such a difficult, intimate environment; and for crafting it with profound empathy, the jury gives the Best International Short Documentary to Unforgivable.”


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

Jury statement: “For the remarkable strength of its convictions and the tenderness of its filmmaking, the jury grants the Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary to êmîcêtôcêt: Many Bloodlines, a film rooted in and guided by love.”

In the Best Canadian Short Documentary category, the jury would also like to acknowledge In the Shadow of the Pines (D: Anne Koizumi; P: Sahar Yousefi; Canada) with an honourable mention.

Hot Docs is an Academy Awards® qualifying festival for short documentaries and, as winners of the Best International Short Documentary Award and the Best Canadian Short Documentary Award, respectively Unforgivable and êmîcêtôcêt: Many Bloodlines, will qualify for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided they comply with Academy rules.


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.


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 2020 awards for films in competition were determined by four juries.

The Canadian Feature Documentary Jury: Amar Wala (producer/director); Lisa Valencia Svensson (producer); Rada Šešić (Festival programmer, film lecturer, film director)

The International Feature Documentary Jury: Justine Pimlott (producer); Orwa Nyrabia (Artistic Director of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam); Chris Hegedus (filmmaker).

The Mid-Length Jury: Monika Navarro (Senior Director of Artist Programs for Firelight Media); João Federici (World Cinema Programmer of Mill Valley Film Festival and Director of Programming of MixBrasil Festival); Denae Peters (Program Officer at Perspective Fund).

The Shorts Jury: Sami Khan (filmmaker); Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (filmmaker, writer, actor); Kathleen McInnis (producer).



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