Phillip Baribeau’s wild mustang journey Unbranded (pictured) has claimed the audience award at the 22nd annual Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.
The film – which was recently picked up by UK distributor Dogwoof and will also screen as part of the Marché du Film at the Cannes Film Festival – follows the five-month journey of four friends who travel on horseback from Mexico to Canada through the public lands of the American West.
Coming in second place in the audience poll is Shelley Saywell’s Lowdown Tracks, which follows five transient musicians who busk for change in Toronto, while Su Rynard’s The Messenger, which examines the declining population of songbirds, placed third.
“This year’s Top 20 showcases, again, that there is a passionate appetite for diverse and smart documentary programming, and we’re happy to note the list includes no shortage of outstanding director-driven Canadian docs,” said Hot Docs executive director Brett Hendrie in a statement.
In other news, Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker’s Welcome to Leith picked up the festival’s Filmmaker-to-Filmmaker Award, which is chosen by attending filmmakers with official selections in the festival. The doc is billed as a “real-life horror story” in the North Dakota town, where a white supremacist attempts to establish a community of neo-Nazis.
The 11-day event welcomed estimated audiences of 200,500, according to festival organizers, and featured 452 public screenings of 210 films across Toronto, in addition to welcoming more than 300 guest filmmakers and subjects. This year, a total of 2,724 films were submitted to the festival for consideration.
The top 20 audience favorites are below:
1. Unbranded (Phillip Baribeau, U.S.)
2. Lowdown Tracks (Shelley Saywell, Canada)
3. The Messenger (Su Rynard; Canada, France)
4. My Love, Don’t Cross That River (Moyoung Jin, South Korea)
5. Radical Grace (Rebecca Parrish, U.S.)
6. How to Change the World (Jerry Rothwell; UK, Canada)
7. Fractured Land (Damien Gillis, Fiona Rayher; Canada)
8. Omo Child: The River and the Bush (John Rowe, U.S.)
9. What Happened, Miss Simone? (Liz Garbus, U.S.)
10. Frame by Frame (Mo Scarpelli, Alexandria Bombach; U.S.)
11. Mavis! (Jessica Edwards; Canada, U.S.)
12. Attacking the Devil: Harold Evans and the Last Nazi War Crime (Jacqui Morris, David Morris; UK, Canada)
13. The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats Its Young (Timothy Kane, Annika Iltis; U.S.)
14. Speed Sisters (Amber Fares; Palestine, U.S., Qatar, Denmark, UK, Canada)
15. TransFatty Lives (Patrick O’Brien, U.S.)
16. Tie between Music Lessons (Michael Mabbott, Canada) and No Place to Hide: The Rehtaeh Parsons Story (Rama Rau, Canada)
18. All the Time in the World (Suzanne Crocker, Canada)
19. Survivors Rowe (Daniel Roher, Canada)
20. Finding Macpherson (Serge Giguère, Canada)