Sherief Elkatsha’s doc on Egyptian taxi drivers, Cairo Drive (pictured), and Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick’s workplace inequality-focused The Hand That Feeds won top prizes at DOC NYC, which wrapped its fifth edition yesterday (November 20).
The eight day-event – which kicked off on November 13 – enjoyed record audiences this year, according to organizers, with a 28 percent spike in attendance and close to 25,000 attendees.
Picking up the grand jury prize for the Viewfinders competition, which consists of 10 films with “distinct directorial visions,” was Elkatsha’s documentary Cairo Drive, on Cairo’s cab drivers. The jury included Andrea Holley, deputy director of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival; Gary Rosen, editor of The Wall Street Journal’s “Weekend Review”; and Jesse Weinraub, manager of documentary programming for HBO.
“Cairo Drive is a funny, endearing, deeply humane look at the everyday struggle to navigate the crazy streets of Egypt’s capital,” reads the jurors’ statement. “Director Sherief Elkatsha introduces us to a range of Cairenes – secular, religious, young, old, rich, poor, traditional, cosmopolitan – and somehow never manages to lose sight of them as individuals.”
Meanwhile, Thomas Wirthensohn’s Homme Less was awarded the grand jury prize in the New York-centric Metropolis competition, which showcases stories about the city. Wirthensohn’s film is a portrait of photographer Mark Reay, who leads a glamorous life in his career but struggles with homelessness.
The Metropolis jury was made up of film critic Bilge Ebiri, How to Survive a Plague filmmaker David France, and SundanceNow Doc Club general manager Linda Pan.
The group noted: “We were impressed with this film’s craft, but we were even more impressed with its content. It portrays both the beauty and cruelty of New York. It also shows the city’s obsession with surfaces, and it gives us a figure who’s complex, troubling, and fascinating.”
Elsewhere, the winner of the shorts competition – selected out of 37 doc shorts – was Danielle Schwartz’s Mirror Image, in which the filmmaker asks her grandparents about the origins of a family heirloom.
Schwartz’s win now qualifies her film for consideration in the documentary short subject category of the Academy Awards without having to do the standard theatrical run.
Finally, picking up the SundanceNow Doc Club audience award was Lears and Blotnick’s The Hand That Feeds, which documents a battle between the workers and management at an upscale Manhattan bakery. The winner is chosen from ballot votes by the audiences in attendance at a film’s first screening at DOC NYC.
Commenting on the close of the festival’s fifth edition, artistic director Thom Powers said: “DOC NYC has grown to its present size in response to a clear desire for a world-class documentary event by New York City’s vibrant community of non-fiction filmmakers, industry and film lovers. We are encouraged by the festival’s success to make each edition better than the previous one.”