Silverdocs award winners revealed

Mona Nicoara and Miruna Coco-Cozma's Our School (pictured), Andris Gauja's Family Instinct and Janos Richter's Guanape Sur took home this year's Sterling prizes.
June 27, 2011

The AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival wound down this weekend, with its awards presentation honoring what jurors thought to be the best of the fest.

Taking home the Sterling Award for best U.S. feature on Saturday night was Our School from Mona Nicoara and Miruna Coco-Cozma, which follows efforts to integrate isolated Roma (or gypsy) children into Romania’s mainstream school system. The prize comes with a US$5,000 cash award.

The Sterling U.S. feature jury – composed of ITVS programming VP Claire Aguilar, filmmaker Chico Colvard, and Shannon Kelly from the UCLA Film and Television Archive – said in a joint statement: “The cinematic quality of this film, the filmmaker’s vision and power of the story’s core issue impressed the jury, revealing an intimate depiction of a marginalized and underrepresented community, whose voice is seldom heard. The filmmaker brings to light a timely human rights issue with compassion and intimacy.”

Special jury mention was given to Lee Hirsch’s The Bully Project and Whitney Dow’s When the Drum is Beating.

The Sterling Award for best world feature, also including a $5,000 cash prize, went to Andris Gauja’s Family Instinct, which documents life in a Latvian household framed around an incestuous relationship between a sister and a brother.

The Sterling world feature jury – composed of former Hot Docs programming director Sean Farnel, indieWIRE co-founder Eugene Hernandez, and LA Weekly editor Karina Longworth – said in a statement: “A slice-of-f**ked-up-life portrait, the director of this film clearly had fly-on-the-wall access to his subjects, but some scenes, shot from multiple angles, are so formally composed as to seem staged.

“That’s not a bad thing: For all the desperation and depravity of the story, the filmmaker rescues a narrative of deep sadness and yearning that’s as touching as the circumstances are shocking.”

Special jury mention went to 2010 IDFA winner Position Among the Stars by Leonard Retel Helmrich.

The Sterling Award for best short film went to Janos Richter’s Guanape Sur, with an honorable mention going to Alex Camilleri’s Still Here. The former film documents the scene on a barren island off the coast of Peru, where once every 11 years, hundreds of laborers harvest dried excrement from sea birds for fertilizer; while the latter short follows Randy Baron, who has been living with HIV for close to two decades and has devoted his life to activism and education.

Other awards presented on Saturday included the Cinematic Vision award, which went to director Kevin Macdonald’s Life in a Day; the WGA Documentary Screenplay award, which went to The Loving Story from Nancy Buirski and Susie Ruth Powell; the Whole Foods Market/Silverdocs grant, which went to Margaret Brown for The Great Invisible and to Ian Cheney for Bluespace; and the Tribeca Film Institute/Silverdocs Transmedia Lab Pitch award, which went to Amir Bar-Lev for The Tillman Story Interactive Edition.

The Audience Award winner will be announced later today (Monday, June 27). The Silverdocs Documentary Conference and Festival ran from June 20-26.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.