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Hot Docs 2021 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. Eleven awards and $67,000 CDN in cash and prizes were presented to Canadian and international filmmakers, including awards for Festival films in competition and those recognizing emerging and established filmmakers.

The 2021 audience award and Rogers Audience Award winners were announced of May 10. See the list >>


Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award
zo reken (D&P Emanuel Licha; Canada)
Sponsored by DOC and Telefilm Canada, the award includes a $10,000 cash prize.

Jury statement: “Emanuel Licha uses cinematic metaphor to evoke the dignity of a people and the human trap that is the international aid industrial complex. Its minimalist controlled tableaus and carefully chosen conversations provide an unflinching gaze at the violent, often self-defeating consequences of foreign aid.”


Special Jury Prize – Canadian Feature Documentary
One of Ours (D: Yasmine Mathurin; P: Laura Perlmutter, Andrew Nicholas McCann Smith; Canada) Sponsored by DGC National and DGC Ontario, the award includes a $5,000 cash prize.

Jury statement: “This intimate coming of age story adeptly and lovingly examines the nuances of race, sexuality and family relationships in present day Canada in all its glorious and heartbreaking messiness. With such exceptional access the film reassures the viewer that tenderness and acceptance and respect remain front and center of the story.”


Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award
Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers for Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy (P: David Christensen, Lori Lozinski, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers; Canada)
Given to a first or second-time Canadian filmmaker with a feature film in the Canadian Spectrum program, the award includes a $3,000 cash prize.

Jury statement: “Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy is a story that remained unflinching in its treatment of an issue we’ve often seen only from the outside. The on-going tragedies are portrayed with deep familiarity and care, so every frame beams with a sense of love and support for the dignity of this unjustly wounded culture. With one fiction feature film, and now two documentary feature films to her name, Tailfeathers is a filmmaker on the rise.”


Best International Feature Documentary Award
Ostrov – Lost Island (D: Svetlana Rodina, Laurent Stoop; P: Corinna Dästner, Sonja Kilbertus, Urs Schnell; Switzerland)
Supported by the Panicaro Foundation, the award includes a $10,000 cash prize courtesy of the Panicaro Foundation.

Jury statement: “The jury was taken by this gorgeous, insightful film. The access the filmmakers had was remarkable and resulted in a truly powerful cinematic experience which shows the everyday reality of people in Russia.”

Hot Docs is an Academy Award qualifying festival for international feature documentaries, and as the winner of this award Ostrov – Lost Island will qualify for consideration in the Best Documentary Feature category of the annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided it complies with Academy rules.


Special Jury Prize – International Feature Documentary
School of Hope (D: Mohamed El Aboudi; P: Pertti Veijalainen; Finland, France, Morocco)
Sponsored by A&E, the award includes a $5,000 cash prize.

Jury statement: “The jury was impressed with the filmmaker’s devotion to this story and immersive technique which created a visually touching story about the realities of climate change and the power of education.”


Emerging International Filmmaker Award
Annabel Verbeke for Four Seasons in a Day (P: Frederik Nicolai, Eric Goossens, Karl-Emil Rikardsen, Ljubo Zdjelarević, Lukas Trimonis; Belgium, Norway, Croatia)
Given to a first or second-time international filmmaker with a feature film in the International Spectrum program, the award, supported by the Donner Canadian Foundation, includes a $3,000 cash prize.

Jury statement: “In only her second feature documentary, the director already shows mastery of the verité craft in this film which unveils itself to be more complex and universal than it first appears.”

In the Emerging International Filmmaker category, the jury also acknowledged director Margaret Byrne for Any Given Day (P: Margaret Byrne; USA) with an honourable mention.

Jury statement: “Margaret Byrne shows real potential and talent in this brave, vulnerable and subjective documentary.”


Best Mid-Length Documentary Award
Silent Voice (D: Reka Valerik; P: David Hurst; France, Belgium)
Sponsored by British Pathé, the award includes a $5,000 cash prize.

Jury statement: “For its sensitive use of cinema to convey an act of healing from extreme sexual violence, the jury bestows the award to Silent Voice. The filmmaker delivers a powerful depiction of forced migration—both from a country and a family—and horrific discrimination, with an observational lens that intrudes into a private space with intelligence and care.”

In the Best Mid-Length Documentary category, the jury also acknowledged Sunny (D: Keti Machavariani; P: Tsisana Khundadze, Nato Sikharulidze; Georgia) with an honourable mention.

Jury statement: “The filmmaker presents a charming character portrait that evolves into a compassionate, complex view of a society in transition. Many questions are asked, few are definitively answered—and yet, a beautiful empathetic view of humanity is conveyed in all its complexities and aspirations.”


Best International Short Documentary Award
The Doll (D&P: Elahe Esmaili; Iran)
The award includes a $3,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs.

Jury statement: “The jury proudly awards the prize for the best international short film to The Doll for its complex and nuanced portrait of a family caught between traditions and personal values. With a sensitive and attentive look at her subjects, the filmmaker offers us a film of incredible richness on a human experience that would be easy to judge from a Western point of view. Unsettling, endearing, and sometimes even shocking, this film will not leave anyone indifferent.”


Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary
Ain’t No Time for Women (D: Sarra El Abed; P: Isabelle Grignon-Francke; Canada)
The award includes a $3,000 cash prize courtesy of John and Betty Youson.

Jury statement: “The jury was moved by this immersive and deeply engaging film. The cinematography and editing pulls the viewer into the women’s space and conversations and shows how indomitable the spirit can be, even in the face of national corruption.”

In the Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary category, the jury also acknowledged The Hairdresser (D&P: Lorraine Price; Canada) with an honourable mention.

Jury statement: “We were profoundly moved by this film that highlights the importance of not robbing those at the end of life of basic human dignity. The film was beautiful, delicate and brought great comfort.”

Hot Docs is an Academy Award qualifying festival for short documentaries and, as winners of the Best International Short Documentary Award and the Best Canadian Short Documentary Award respectively, The Doll and Ain’t No Time for Women 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.


Lindalee Tracey Award
Cailleah Scott-Grimes for her film Between Us (2020)
The Award honours an emerging Canadian filmmaker with a passionate point of view, a strong sense of social justice and a sense of humour, and includes $5,000 cash prize courtesy of the Lindalee Tracey Fund, $5,000 in post-production services from SIM, and a beautiful hand-blown glass sculpture by Andrew Kuntz, specially commissioned to honour Lindalee.


Don Haig Award
Toronto-based producer Lalita Krishna, producer of Bangla Surf Girls and president of In Sync Media

The award is 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 and comes with a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of the Don Haig Foundation.

As part of the award, the recipient can name an emerging female documentary filmmaker to receive a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs, and an industry pass for Hot Docs 2022. Lalita named Bangladeshi filmmaker Elizabeth D. Costa, director of Bangla Surf Girls, as the recipient of this prize.


The 2021 awards for films in competition were determined by four juries.

The Canadian Feature Documentary Jury: Raul Niño Zambran (Senior Programmer, IDFA); Michèle Stephenson (filmmaker); Patricia Rozema (writer, director and producer)

The International Feature Documentary Jury: Sheila Nevins (Executive Producer, MTV Networks); Kazuhiro Soda (filmmaker); Toni Kamau (producer)

The Mid-Length Jury: Atom Egoyan (filmmaker); José F. Rodriguez (Programmer, Tribeca Film Festival); and Rasha Salti (Commissioning Editor, Experimental Documentary Program, La Lucarne at ArteFrance)

The Shorts Jury: Miryam Charles (director and producer); Poh Si Teng (producer); Adriana Chartrand (Institute Manager at imagineNATIVE)



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