Yuqi Kang’s A Little Wisdom, Chuck Smith’s Barbara Rubin & the Exploding NY Underground, and Seung-Jun Yi’s short film In the Absence have been awarded grand jury prizes at the eighth annual DOC NYC festival.
A Little Wisdom (pictured) was feted with the festival’s top prize against eight finalists in the Viewfinders competition, chosen by programmers for their distinct directorial visions. The 92-minute film centers on a Tibetan Buddhist monastery where novice monks attempt to balance rituals and discipline with the distractions of modern life and childhood.
In a statement, the panel of jurors said the film “is a beautifully crafted, nuanced, and candid observational portrait of everyday life for young Tibetan monks; the film is filled with quiet, heart-breaking revelations as it explores both the joys and cruel power dynamics of childhood.”
Finalists in the Viewfinders category included Judith A. Helfand’s Cooked: Survival by Zip Code; Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron’s Ghost Fleet; Janus Metz and Sine Plambech’s Heartbound; Havana Marking and Sam Hobkinson’s The Kleptocrats; Clay Tweel’s Out Of Omaha; Tracy Droz Tragos’ The Smartest Kids in the World; Chris Martin’s Under The Wire; and Andrey Paounov’s Walking On Water.
In the Metropolis competition, which showcases films that exemplify a diverse range of stories in New York City, the jury selected Smith’s Barbara Rubin & the Exploding NY Underground. The 78-minute project serves as a carefully sculpted portrait of the nearly-forgotten avant-garde artist, Barbara Rubin, who defied sexist conventions and “enabled surprising connections” in the 1960s New York underground film scene.
Competing against Barbara Rubin & the Exploding NY Underground in the Metropolis section were Alexandra Stergiou and Lexi Henigman’s The Candidates; Rauzar Alexander’s Creating A Character: The Moni Yakim Legacy; Vivian Vazquez and Gretchen Hildebran’s Decade Of Fire; Stephen Wilkes’ Jay Myself; Charles Curran’s See Know Evil; and Jeremy Workman’s The World Before Your Feet.
Clay Tweel’s Out of Omaha, meanwhile, took the DOC NYC Audience Award. From executive producer J. Cole, the coming-of-age tale (92 minutes) was filmed over an eight-year period and follows two young African American twin brothers navigating the racially and economically divided Nebraskan town.
The winner for the Audience Award was determined by audience voting at the primary screening of each film in the Metropolis and Viewfinders competitions.
In the Shorts competition, Seung-Jun Yi’s In the Absence was honored with the grand prize in recognition of its “complex story rigorously and sensitively told.” Through interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses, the film provides an honest examination at the 2014 Sewol Ferry Disaster in South Korea.
Special mentions in the Shorts category went to Andre Hoermann and Anna Samo’s Obon and Molly Brass and Stephen Tyler’s King of the Night.
In the Absence now qualifies for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the annual Academy Awards without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules.
A panel of industry professionals voted to select the winner of this year’s DOC NYC PRO Pitch Perfect Award, recognizing the best pitch for a work-in-progress.
This year’s winner was Civil War (or, Who Do We Think We Are), directed by Rachel Boynton. The project explores how America remembers the Civil War and “what the stories we tell reveal about who we are”.
The winner of the 2018 Pitch Perfect Award receives a post-production package from Wheelhouse Creative, which includes a marketing consultation and finishing support, valued at US$4,000.
New this year, the IF/Then Shorts Northeast American Pitch Award, in partnership with Tribeca Film Institute, invited six filmmaking teams to pitch their doc shorts focusing on stories of the American Northeast.
Kira Dane and Katelyn Rebelo’s Mizuko (Water Child) was selected by a panel of experts and receives up to US$20,000 in completion funding, free post-production services, and the opportunity to participate in Tribeca Film Institute’s IF/Then Shorts distribution initiative.
The eight-day festival, which ran Nov. 8 – 15 in New York, featured 137 feature-length films and 93 short documentaries. Included were 44 world premieres and 17 U.S. premieres.
Complete DOC NYC program information can be found here.