EyeSteel’s fruit doc wins Canwest-Hot Docs Pitch Prize

'Heart of Darkness meets fruit?' 'The fruit Avatar?' Either way, chalk up another win for EyeSteelFilm, which wowed the crowd at the Toronto Documentary Forum with a tasty new project, Fruit Hunters.
May 10, 2010

The Fruit Hunters was ripe for the picking as the Toronto Documentary Forum panel selected the EyeSteelFilm project as the winner of the $40,000 Canwest-Hot Docs Pitch Prize.

Pitched by director and writer Yung Chang (Up The Yangtze), the 90-minute HD/3D feature doc about the hidden world of exotic fruit was the most well-received pitch on day two of Hot Docs’ Forum. CBC’s Michael Allder called it ‘Heart of Darkness meets fruit’ and because of the 3D treatment, Barbara Truyen of Dutch pubcaster VPRO commented that it could be ‘the fruit Avatar.’

Clearly a favorite with Canadian broadcasters, Naomi Boxer at TVOntario said she would be interested if the Ceeb didn’t want it, at which point The Knowledge Network’s Murray Battle turned to her and said, ‘I think we should take CBC on for this.’

Chang had stepped up to the hot seat earlier in the day with producer Peter Wintonick from Montreal’s Necessary Illusions to pitch China Heavyweight. The 90-minute HD story about a Chinese coach teaching rural teens about Western-style boxing garnered interest from ESPN Films senior director Mark Durand, mentioning the sports channel’s more recent commitment to docs as a result of the success of its ’30 for 30′ series.

The Interactive Mountie Hat prize, in which a name was randomly selected to pitch on the fly, went to Kim Harris and Julia Bennett of Pink Job. The duo pitched Green to the End, a story about two elderly women on a mission to find an eco-friendly way to leave this world when their time is up. It drew interest from Planet Green’s Erin Pant, while PBS Interactive’s Eric Freeland and RTE’s David McKenna were drawn to the project’s online potential.

Other winners announced on Thursday included the $15,000 NFB Digital Development Deal, awarded to The House That Herman Built from Toronto’s Storyline Entertainment, which also took home The Cuban Hat Award, determined by ballot for all TDF observers’ favorite pitch. The Cuban Hat vote for best commissioning editor, also determined by ballot, went to Iikka Vehkalahti from Finnish pubcaster YLE.

There were other quirky projects that also captured the attention of several broadcasters, including The Diaper Dilemma from Paris-based Nord-Ouest Documentaries and Tall Girls from Berlin’s avanti media. Saudi Arabia’s Eggdancer Productions drew applause from the crowd for being the first prodco to be helmed by Saudi women, as Dania Nassief and Danya Alhamrani presented Let Me Entertain You, a doc revolving around the challenges of being a Saudi performer.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.