Doc/Fest awards: Maysles honored, “Interrupters” triumphs

Vérité legend Albert Maysles (pictured) urged young documentary-makers to film "good people doing good things" as he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest, while Steve James's doc The Interrupters picked up the festival's Special Jury Award.
June 12, 2011

Vérité legend Albert Maysles (pictured above) urged young documentary-makers to film “good people doing good things” as he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest.

Accepting the award, the 84-year-old director paid tribute to the Sheffield event. “It’s one of the great film festivals – I’ve attended many, and this is among the top,” he said, adding: “Here I am, of some vintage, still motivated so strongly by the opportunities to change the world.”

The director also spoke about a project he was undertaking involving filming people on random train journeys talking about their lives, and how it had encouraged him to reflect on the benefits of telling positive stories in documentaries, rather than negative ones.

“Hollywood is devoted to conflict,” he criticised. “We’ve got to get on to filming good people doing good things – enough of this war stuff. Isn’t it about time that we can watch a film and say, ‘Oh my God, just like a member of my family, do I love that person?’”

His award came ahead of his hosting a masterclass reflecting on his experience as a filmmaker, and with the festival airing a number of his best-known films, including 1969 masterpiece Salesman and 1975 opus Grey Gardens.

Elsewhere at the 18th annual Doc/Fest, the Special Jury Award – chosen by a panel including execs from Artificial Eye Film, the Sundance Film Festival and AMDOC POV – went to Chicago-set epic The Interrupters, the latest film from Hoop Dreams director Steve James (pictured below, third right, accepting the prize).

Steve James (third from right) accepting the Special Jury Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest

The jury praised the film’s “powerful depiction of modern day heroes,” and gave a special mention to runner-up Alma Har’el’s Bombay Beach, for its “lyrical craft, humanity and sheer originality.”


Meanwhile, The Sheffield Green Award was won by Anthony Baxter’s You’ve Been Trumped, which investigates American billionaire Donald Trump’s project to build a giant golf course in Scotland.

Accepting the award, Baxter expressed his immense gratitude “to the people around the world who crowdfunded the film” and to his producer Richard Phinney. An honorable mention went to Adam Wakefield’s Up In Smoke, which earlier this week was previewed on PBS in the U.S., as previously reported.

Elsewhere, the Sheffield Youth Jury Award was given to We Are Poets, in which Sheffield-based filmmakers Alex Ramseyer-Bache and Daniel Lucchesi follow the group Leeds Young Authors as they prepare for the most prestigious poetry slam competition in America.

The Student Doc Award was awarded to Eighty Eight, a short film by Josh Bamford, Seb Feehan and Hannah Bone, which portrays 88-year-old Ralph Settle, former roller skating, cycling and swimming champion; while the Sheffield Innovation Award was given to Michael Simons and Paul Shoebridge’s Welcome to Pine Point, a creative web story about the abandoned mining town of Pine Point in Canada’s Northwest territories.

The jury rewarded the latter film for “embracing new platforms and new languages” and “immersing the viewer in a beautifully crafted, inventive and heartbreaking digital memoir of loss, nostalgia and disintegration.” A special mention went to John Akomfrah’s work The Nine Muses.

Finally, Sheffield Doc/Fest’s Inspiration Award, which celebrates a figure in the industry who has championed documentary and helped get great work into the public eye, went to filmmaker Nick Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney, Biggie & Tupac).

Broomfield (pictured below accepting the award), who has been making films for more than 40 years, said he was “slightly embarrassed” to be getting the award in his acceptance speech, as he likes to think his career “is just beginning.” He also paid tribute to the influence of Colin Young, the founder of the National Film and Television School.

Nick Broomfield (second from left) accepting the Inspiration Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest

The winner of the Sheffield Doc/Fest Audience Award will be announced June 13.


Give Up Tomorrow, a doc examining corruption surrounding a controversial murder case in the Philippines, has won the Doc/Fest Audience Award.

The film – which was backed by BBC ‘Storyville,’ the Tribeca All Access and Gucci Tribeca Documentary funds – is directed by Michael Collins, with  Marty Syjuco the producer.

Doc/Fest programmer Hussain Currimbhoy said: “Michael and Marty came to Sheffield to raise money in the MeetMarket in 2009 with Give Up Tomorrow – which they made over six years and three continents – so it’s especially wonderful that Doc/Fest audiences have given this film the recognition it deserves.”

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.