The Islands and the Whales, Off the Rails and short Bedside Manner have been awarded grand jury prizes at the DOC NYC festival, which concluded Nov. 17 in New York after eight days.
Director Mike Day’s The Islands and the Whales (pictured) was awarded the top prize against nine finalists in the Viewfinders competition for its distinct directorial vision. The film looks at the inhabitants of a remote archipelago whose traditional way of life is facing pressure from international animal rights activists.
“The nine films of the Viewfinders competition presented the jury with a rewarding range of artistic and political perspectives, but one film stood out for its potent balance of artistry and message,” the jurors stated of their choice.
Special mention in the category went to Zhang Zanbo’s The Road, an in-depth look at the corruption-plagued construction of a massive highway through a rural Chinese village.
Other films featured in the Viewfinders section included The Age of Consequences, from director Jared P. Scott; The Beekeeper and His Son, directed by Diedie Weng; Death By a Thousand Cuts, from directors Jake Kheel and Juan Mejia Botero; Forever Pure, directed by Maya Zinshtein; Girl Unbound: The War to Be Her, directed by Erin Heidenreich; The Lure, directed by Tomas Leach; and The Nine, directed by Katy Grannan.
In the Metropolis Competition, which showcases films that exemplify a diverse range of stories in New York City, the jury selected Off the Rails, directed by Adam Irving, for its “imaginative portrait of an indelible New York character.” The film tells the stranger-than-fiction story of serial imposter Darius McCollum, who has been jailed more than 30 times for illegally driving buses and conducting subway trains.
Special mention went to Winter at Westbeth, directed by Rohan Spong and The Incomparable Rose Hartman, directed by Otis Mass.
The Audience Award, meanwhile, went to Jake Kheel and Juan Mejia’s Death by a Thousand Cuts. Produced by Ben Selkow, the film chronicles the story of a Haitian murder that exposed “long-simmering tensions that boil over into xenophobia and racism.”
Nominees for the DOC NYC Audience Award featured selections from both competitive sections. Audience balloting at the primary screening of each film determined the winner.
In the Shorts competition, Corinne Botz’s Bedside Manner, won the grand prize in recognition of its “unique subject matter and haunting, inventive, female-centric storytelling.” The film explores empathy and medical relationships through the practice of using medical actors to train student doctors.
In all, 111 feature-length documentaries were screened at the festival, along with 102 short films with 19 films enjoying their world premieres at the event.