Hot Docs ’21: “Zo reken”, “Ostrov – Lost Island” take awards

Emanuel Licha’s zo reken, Yasmine Mathurin’s One of Ours and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, director of Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy, have emerged as award-winners at this year’s Hot Docs Festival. The Hot ...
May 10, 2021

Emanuel Licha’s zo reken, Yasmine Mathurin’s One of Ours and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, director of Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy, have emerged as award-winners at this year’s Hot Docs Festival.

The Hot Docs Awards Presentation, held virtually May 7, saw 11 awards and CA$67,000 in cash and prizes presented to Canadian and international filmmakers.

Zo reken (pictured), directed and produced by Licha, won the best Canadian feature documentary award, which includes a $10,000 cash prize.

The film sees humanitarian aid workers in Port-au-Prince share candid thoughts about the grim realities of colonialism, international aid and “11 years of unkept promises.”

The $5,000 special jury prize for a Canadian feature documentary was presented to Mathurin’s One of Ours (produced by Laura Perlmutter and Andrew Nicholas McCann Smith), about a Haitian-born youth who wrestles with his sense of belonging in his Indigenous adoptive family after being racially profiled.

Tailfeathers received the $3,000 Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award, given to a first- or second-time Canadian filmmaker with a feature film in the Canadian Spectrum program.

Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empath, produced by Tailfeathers, David Christensen and Lori Lozinski, goes inside the Kainai First Nation in Alberta to show the community’s efforts to heal from the opioid crisis.

The best international feature documentary award was given to Svetlana Rodina and Laurent Stoop’s Ostrov – Lost Island (produced by Corinna Dästner Sonja Kilbertus and Urs Schnell), about the denizens of a once-vibrant fishing island in the Caspian Sea, whose elders await Russia’s return to greatness while the younger generation hopes for a new future.

The award includes a $10,000 cash prize.

The $5,000 special jury prize for international feature documentary was given to Mohamed El Aboudi’s School of Hope (produced by Pertti Veijalainen), in which Morocco’s Oulad Boukais tribe, suffering from extended drought, sets up a school in a small clay building to ensure their children’s futures.

Director Annabel Verbeke took home the Emerging International Filmmaker Award, given to a first- or second-time filmmaker with a feature film in the International Spectrum program.

Verbeke’s Four Seasons in a Day (produced by Frederik Nicolai, Eric Goossens, Karl-Emil Rikardsen, Ljubo Zdjelarević and Lukas Trimonis) sees ferry passengers travelling between British-controlled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland candidly express their opinions about Brexit and the border.

The award includes a $3,000 cash prize.

Reka Valerik’s Silent Voice, about a young gay MMA fighter who, after fleeing his homophobic family in Chechnya, struggles to build a new identity in Brussels, secured the $5,000 best mid-length documentary award.

The film is produced by David Hurst.

The $3,000 best international short documentary award was presented to The Doll (directed and produced by Elahe Esmaili); while the $3,000 Betty Youson Award for the best Canadian short documentary was presented to Ain’t No Time for Women (directed by Sarra El Abed and produced by Isabelle Grignon-Francke).

Finally, the Lindalee Tracey Award, which recognizes an emerging Canadian filmmaker with a passionate point of view, a strong sense of social justice and a sense of humor, was presented to Cailleah Scott-Grimes for her film Between Us.

The director will receive a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of the Lindalee Tracey Fund, $5,000 in post-production services from SIM, and a hand-blown glass sculpture by Andrew Kuntz. Scott-Grimes’ short doc Rockin’ the Coffin is currently streaming at the 2021 Festival.

Toronto-based producer Lalita Krishna, producer of Bangla Surf Girls and president of In Sync Media, received the Don Haig Award, announced last week.

As for the Hot Docs Audience Award, this year the top rated film in the audience poll was Dear Future Children (D: Franz Böhm | P: Johannes Schubert, Ansgar Wörner, Franz Böhm | Germany, UK, Austria). The film tells the story of three women coping with the staggering personal impact of frontline activism as they fight for change in their respective countries of Chile, Hong Kong and Uganda.

The top mid-length film was Spirit to Soar (D: Tanya Talaga, Michelle Derosier | P: Nida Marji, Shivani Srivastava, Rose LeMay | Canada), journalist Tanya Talaga’s follow up to her award-winning book which sees her return to Thunder Bay after the inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations high school students.

And last but not least, the top short documentary was A Concerto Is a Conversation (D: Kris Bowers, Ben Proudfoot | P: Kris Bowers, Jeremy Lambert, Ben Proudfoot | USA, Canada), in which acclaimed film composer and jazz pianist Kris Bowers sits down with his 91-year-old grandfather, who reflects on his journey to California from Jim Crow Florida.

The 2021 Hot Docs Festival closed May 9.

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.