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“Once Upon a Time in Uganda,” “Ascension” among 2021 DOC NYC award winners

Once Upon a Time in Uganda and On the Other Side were among the winners in DOC NYC’s 2021 awards, winning grand jury prizes at the film festival. DOC NYC, the largest ...
November 17, 2021

Once Upon a Time in Uganda and On the Other Side were among the winners in DOC NYC’s 2021 awards, winning grand jury prizes at the film festival.

DOC NYC, the largest documentary film festival in the U.S., revealed its 2021 award winners on Wednesday (Nov. 17). Five juries selected films from the festival’s U.S. Competition, International Competition and Kaleidoscope sections, as well as its Metropolis and Shorts lineups.

In DOC NYC’s U.S. Competition, the grand jury prize was awarded to Once Upon a Time in Uganda (pictured), directed by Cathryne Czubek, co-directed by Hugo Perez, and produced by Czubek, Perez, Gigi Dement, Matt Porwoll and Kyaligamba Ark Martin. The film is about the friendship between a Ugandan filmmaker and American film programmer, as they make movies with minimal resources. Special mention was given to the film Refuge.

The International Competition grand jury prize was awarded to On the Other Side, directed by Iván Guarnizo and produced by Jorge Caballero. Guarnizo’s mother was abducted by FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) for 603 days during its conflict with the Colombian state. She spoke fondly of one particular guerrilla before her death, and Guarnizo’s film covers his search with his brother for this person, using their mother’s journal. After the Rain received a special mention from the jury as well.

The Kaleidoscope section features essayistic and formally adventurous documentaries. The grand jury prize in this section went to Nude at Heart, directed by Yoichiro Okutani, and produced by Asako Fujioka and Eric Nyari. The film looks at the lives of Odoriko dancers performing in Japan’s variety theatres. A special mention went to the film Nothing But the Sun.

The festival’s Metropolis section recognizes films dedicated to stories about New Yorkers and New York City. The section’s grand jury prize winner is Hold Your Fire, about the longest hostage siege in New York City history. The film is directed by Stefan Forbes and produced by Tia Wou, Fab Five Freddy and Amir Soltani. A special mention went to the film Charm Circle.

The Short Section’s grand jury prize recognized Nasir, directed by Nasir Bailey and Jackson Kroopf, and produced by Kroopf. By winning, Nasir qualifies for consideration in the documentary short subject category at the Academy Awards. The section’s special mention went to the film American Scar.

Films from the Short List: Features were also recognized by two juries of filmmaker peers from a field of titles that the DOC NYC programming team considers to be strong awards season contenders this year. The Short List: Features films were eligible for awards in directing, producing, cinematography and editing. The Short List: Shorts films, also considered awards contenders, were eligible for a directing award.

In DOC NYC’s Short List: Features section, the directing award was presented to In the Same Breath filmmaker Nanfu Wang, which looks at the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The producing award was presented to Flee, produced by Monica Hellstrom, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie, an animated documentary about a boy who relied on human smugglers to reach Denmark after leaving Afghanistan.

Ascension director and editor Jessica Kingdon received the editing award for her film about China’s industrial supply chain. And Jessica Beshir received the cinematography award for her film Faya Dayi, which follows the stimulant leaf khat from harvest to consumption in Harar, Ethiopia.

DOC NYC also awarded a special jury prize for cultural treasures to Summer of Soul (… Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, and produced by Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein.

In the Short List: Shorts section, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma, directed by rubberband and Topaz Jones received the directing award. Meanwhile, The Queen of Basketball, directed by Ben Proudfoot, won a special jury mention.

DOC NYC also released the winner of The Redford Center and IF/Then Shorts’ nature access pitch contest, which celebrates stories spotlighting spending time outdoors. Between Earth and Sky, directed by Andrew Nadkarni, and pitched by Nadkarni and producer Swetha Regunathan, won the competition and will receive a $25,000 production grant and a year of wraparound mentorship from IF/Then Shorts.

The festival’s in-person portion will continue through Nov. 18, including a closing night screening of The First Wave. Online screenings run through Nov. 28.

Audience Award voting at DOC NYC will continue through Nov. 18, with the winner announced on Nov. 19.

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