Hot Docs 2023 Wraps with Awards
by Staff Editors
(May 8, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Over the weekend, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, Hot Docs announced their 2023 award-winners, with Danish filmmaker Christian Einshøj’s The Mountains being named Best International Feature Documentary Award, which comes with a $10,000 cash prize.
Two decades after the tragic death of his brother, Einshøj’s family is falling apart. But when his overworked CEO dad is unexpectedly let off and decides to sell the family home, Christian goes back home in a final desperate attempt to assemble the family and recover what is lost. Armed with 30 years of home-video, 75,000 family photos and three tightly fit superhero costumes, he ventures into landscapes of long-lost time, in an attempt to confront a 25-year old tragedy, and the hidden wounds left in its wake. The Mountains is a story of fathers and sons, of vast collections of stamps and amateur videography, of long- distance business-class flights and all the other ways in which we flee, instead of talking about that which hurts – and of the redemption that can follow when the silence is eventually breached. Einshøj (pictured) was given the Emerging International Filmmaker Award, which includes a $3,000 cash prize supported by the Donner Canadian Foundation.
The International competition section also brought a Special Jury Prize 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 award comes with a $5,000 cash award, sponsored by A&E.
Shot over five years, Montreal-based filmmaker Denys Desjardins’ I Lost My Mom, won Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award and a $10,000 cash prize. In the film’s publicity information, in 2017, Desjardins realizes he “was slowly becoming my mother’s parent. I felt the urgent need to document everything my sister and I were going through as her caregivers. I’ve been making films for 30 years and family has always been central to my practice. I am the man with the camera in our family; it’s a role I inherited from my father, who had been making films long before I was born.” It is a highly personal film that is a testament to what family caregivers really went through during the COVID-19 pandemic in which 5,060 seniors died in Québec facilities during the first wave.
The Directors’ Guild of Canada Special Jury Prize — Canadian Feature Documentary went to Justine Harbonnier’s Caiti Blues (pictured above), about an ex-New Yorker now living in New Mexico striving to revive her dream of singing on Broadway. The award comes with and a $5,000 cash prize. Click here to read our review of Caiti Blues.
There were two new awards this year for Canadian feature-length documentaries. The Bill Nemtin Award for Best Social Impact Documentary recognizes producers of a Canadian Spectrum film that had the greatest potential to create social impact. Producers 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. Also see our interview with Zack Russell.
The John Kastner Award went to Jean-Philippe Marquis’ 80-minute feature documentary Silvicola, which explores the impact of forestry in the Pacific Northwest. The award, which comes with a $5,000 cash prize, is given to a feature in the Canadian Spectrum program 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.”
Other awards include the Earl A. Glick Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award, which wwent to Dominique Chaumont for Veranada, a Canada-Argentina film that centres on Don Luis Arturo Avila, a gaucho from Malargüe, Mendoza, Argentina. The award comes with a $3,000 cash prize, courtesy of the Earl A. Glick Family.
Being in a Place – A Portrait of Margaret Tait brought Luke Fowler a Best Mid-Length Documentary award and a $3,000 cash prize, sponsored by British Pathé. The jury also acknowledged Ananta Thitanat’s Scala with an honourable mention. Quebec filmmaker Gaëlle Graton won the Lindalee Tracey Award. Marjan Khosravi’s Mrs. Iran’s Husband 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 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 honourable mention.
The is more information on these and other award-winning films at Hot Docs 2023 available online.