Hot Docs ’22: “Geographies of Solitude,” “Blue Island” win awards

Jacquelyn Mills’ Geographies of Solitude and Chan Tze Woon’s Blue Island were among the winners at the 2022 Hot Docs Festival. The awards were presented on May 6, with seven of ...
May 9, 2022

Jacquelyn Mills’ Geographies of Solitude and Chan Tze Woon’s Blue Island were among the winners at the 2022 Hot Docs Festival.

The awards were presented on May 6, with seven of the 13 awards won by female filmmakers. A total of $65,000 CDN in cash and prizes was awarded to Canadian and international filmmakers.

Geographies of Solitude (pictured), directed by Jacquelyn Mills and produced by Mills and Rosalie Chicoine Perreault, follows a self-taught environmentalist and naturalist who has lived alone for more than 40 years on Sable Island, a tiny, remote atoll off the coast of Nova Scotia. The film won the award for best Canadian feature documentary, along with a $10,000 cash prize. The Canadian features jury praised the film’s “deft ability to reveal the complex intersections between the natural world and humanity’s excesses on a singular isolated island through strongly crafted and arresting visual and aural storytelling.”

The documentary also earned Mills the Earl A. Glick Award, which goes to a Canadian filmmaker in competition with their first or second feature doc, and includes a $3,000 cash prize courtesy of the Glick family.

Blue Island, from director Chan Tze Woon and producer Peter Yam, received the award for best international feature documentary, which also comes with a $10,000 cash prize. The film focuses on Hong Kong in the wake of the 2020 national security law and ensuing protests, a time in which many pro-democracy protestors have either fled or are in custody. The jury lauded the film’s “evocative use of re-enactments interwoven with traditional documentary forms to create a rich, socially grounded cinematic tapestry.”

The $5,000 special jury prize for a Canadian feature documentary went to Rojek (directed by Zaynê Akyol and produced by Akyol, Sylvain Corbeil and Audrey-Ann Dupuis-Pierre), about the rise and defeat of the Islamic State in Syria at the hands of the mainly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces.

The jury also gave an honorable mention to Batata, a film about a community of Syrian migrant workers from director Noura Kevorkian and producers Kevorkian and Paul Scherzer.

The $5,000 special jury prize for international feature documentary was awarded to The Wind Blows the Border from directors Laura Faerman and Marina Weis and producers Rodrigo Díaz Díaz and Luís Ludmer. The doc focuses on rural wealthy elites and agribusiness producers facing off against Indigenous resistance at the Brazil-Paraguay border.

The $3,000 prize for emerging international filmmaker went to Bogna Kowalczyk for Boylesque (produced by Tomasz Morawski, Katarzyna Kuczyńska, Vratislav Šlajer and Hanka Kastelicova), which tells the story of Poland’s oldest drag queen, who came out at a time when the country was still ruled by the fiercely homophobic communist regime.

Alain Gomis’ Rewind & Play, which centers on a contentious interview that jazz legend Thelonious Monk gave to a French TV show in 1969, received the award for best mid-length documentary, which comes with a $3,000 cash prize. The film is produced by Anouk Khélifa and Arnaud Dommerc.

Taking the prize for best international short documentary and a $3,000 prize was Amy Bench’s More Than I Remember, produced by Bench and Carolyn Merriman. The film tells the story of a 14-year-old girl whose family is separated and displaced by civil strife in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The jury also gave My Disability Roadmap, directed by Dan and Samuel Habib and produced by Dan Habib, an honorable mention in the category.

The Betty Youson Award for best Canadian short documentary went to Kitra Cahana’s Perfecting the Art of Longing (produced by Kat Baulu and Ariel Nasr), which received a $3,000 cash prize courtesy of John and Betty Youson. The short centers on Cahana’s father, a quadriplegic rabbi in a long-term-care facility during the pandemic lockdown.

The jury also gave an honorable mention to The Benevolents, from director and producer Sarah Baril Gaudet.

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,” went to Iranian-Canadian filmmaker Avazeh Shahnavaz, who 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, specially commissioned to honor Tracey.

Toronto-based producer Mila Aung-Thwin, producer of Midwives and co-founder of Montreal-based production company EyeSteelFilm, was announced as the recipient of the Don Haig Award near the start of the festival.

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