Toronto critics on Tuesday night (January 7) named Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky’s doc Watermark as the winner of the CAD$100,000 (US$92,600) Best Canadian Film Award.
The environmental doc beat Matt Johnson’s The Dirties and Louise Archambault’s Gabrielle – both of which are narrative dramas – for the Toronto Film Critics Association’s (TFCA) top prize. Archambault and Johnson each received $5,000 as runner-ups.
The win marks the second consecutive year that the TFCA has chosen a documentary over two narrative films for the Best Canadian Film Award. Last year, Sarah Polley’s doc Stories We Tell took the accolade.
It is also the second time Baichwal has won the award; in 2006, she took home the Best Canadian Film and Best Documentary prizes for Manufactured Landscapes, which featured the work of Burtynsky.
“Burtynsky and Baichwal have fused photography and the moving image to take the documentary literally where it’s never been before,” TFCA president Brian D. Johnson said in a statement about Watermark.
The TFCA also handed out the previously announced 2013 Allan King Documentary Award to The Act of Killing, by director Joshua Oppenheimer.
Documentaries stayed in the spotlight at the TFCA’s annual gala, with the announcement of a new documentary fund established in honor of the late filmmaker Peter Wintonick.
Wintonick’s daughter, Mira Burt-Wintonick, was named the first recipient of the $5,000 annual fund, which was quickly turned into a $7,000 fund when Canadian director Bruce McDonald pledged an additional $1,000 in his introductory remarks and another unknown donor kicked in a further $1,000.
“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” Burt-Wintonick said in accepting the honor, lamenting that if her father were to have joined her for the evening, he would have been working the room and making people “pee their pants with some joke.”
Burt-Wintonick said she plans to use the funding to finish a longstanding project of her father’s, a search for a real or metaphorical utopia, a topic she said he obsessed over. Wintonick had, over the course of years, already logged hundreds of hours of footage looking at real places named Utopia, or examining people’s ideas of utopia. Burt-Wintonick, along with Montreal collective EyeSteelFilm, are attempting to complete the doc.
“I will do my best to make it something worthy of him,” she said.
Noting that the fund is still a “work in progress” due to the unexpected and recent nature of Wintonick’s passing, Johnson confirmed that it will be awarded annually to an emerging documentary filmmaker. The TFCA is also seeking donations and a sponsor in order to increase the purse. Recipients are currently selected by the TFCA.
“We were very encouraged by the response to the Fund at last night’s gala, at which two donors boosted the inaugural prize from $5,000 to $7,000. So we have high hopes this will become a going concern,” Johnson said.
With additional files by Etan Vlessing.