Chicago-set documentary The Interrupters (pictured) took the top two prizes at the fifth annual Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking in New York last night.
The film’s director Steve James took the prize for outstanding achievement in direction just before his film was named as this year’s winner for outstanding achievement in nonfiction feature filmmaking, marking the first time a film has received both honors.
“Tonight, I don’t care about the Oscars,” said James, after he and producer Alex Kotlowitz accepted the best feature prize from fellow director Michael Moore.
For his part, Moore addressed this year’s controversy of high-profile docs being snubbed and the changes he has brought in to Oscar voting rules head-on, telling attendees his aim was to introduce a democracy movement to the Academy’s documentary branch.
“This is a much more open, transparent process, and the old days of secret committees are gone,” he said.
Elsewhere at the awards, Clio Barnard picked up the outstanding achievement in a debut feature film prize for her crossover documentary The Arbor, while the award for non-fiction short filmmaking went to Diary, a film by the late Tim Hetherington, who died last year. His parents accepted the award.
Of the other winners, the Audience Choice prize went to Cindy Meehl for Buck, while the outstanding achievement in production award went to Gian-Piero Ringel and Wim Wenders for Pina.
The outstanding achievement in editing prize went to Gregers Sall and Chris King for Senna, while the outstanding achievement in cinematography gong was awarded to Danfung Dennis for Hell and Back Again.
There were also two prizes for Errol Morris’s Tabloid. The film picked up the outstanding achievement in an original music score prize and the outstanding achievement in graphic design and animation gong.
Finally, the Spotlight Award went to Tatiana Huezo Sánchez for The Tiniest Place, while the Heterodox Award – for a crossover narrative feature – went to Mike Mills’s Beginners.
The ceremony also saw a number of previously announced award winners collect their prizes. Steve James presented the Legacy Award to Frederick Wiseman for his landmark 1967 documentary Titicut Follies.
“Making these movies is a great adventure,” Wiseman said in accepting the prize. “I’m extremely pleased and proud to have this award for this first film I did.”
Elsewhere, the first Hell Yeah Prize – given to filmmakers who have created works of incredible craft and artistry that also have significant, real-world impact – was awarded to directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky for their Paradise Lost doc trilogy, which played a critical role in securing the release of the West Memphis Three.
Berlinger, Sinofsky and Jason Baldwin – one of the West Memphis Three – accepted the award. “It’s been a dream come true for us,” said Berlinger of the prize. “You can make a difference when you make these films. We’ve had this amazing journey the past 20 years. We’re really appreciative of HBO.”
In winning the top non-fiction feature prize, The Interrupters beat out The Arbor, Asif Kapadia’s Senna, Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia for the Light, Leonard Retel Helmrich’s Position Among the Stars and James Marsh’s Project Nim.
Esther Robinson and AJ Schnack, who serve as co-chairs of the Cinema Eye Honors, returned as this year’s co-hosts for the ceremony, which was held at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens.