Hot Docs Film Festival ’11 | Wrap-up and Awards

Hot Docs is the largest documentary film festival in North America, showing (in 2011) 199 films from 43 countries. Here we have the 2011 award winners.


It’s been quite a festival: 360 public screenings of 199 films, with over 200 filmmakers and special guests in attendance and an estimated total audience of 151,000. Almost half of the screenings went rush, meaning that advance tickets sold out and people lined up for the chance to buy one of the few remaining tickets. Almost 60,000 students saw films as part of the Doc for Schools programs. On the business side, almost 2,400 delegates from around the world attended industry programming events.

But these are mere statistics. Here are my top ten reasons you should attend Hot Docs:

10. It’s in Toronto, a multi-ethnic city full of cultural and culinary delights (should you have a moment to spare from your film-going regimen).

9. Directors, producers, etc. are in attendance at almost every screening and the film-savvy audiences ask them intelligent questions. 

8. Auditoriums are full for practically every film; you won’t feel the odd man out whether your interest runs to films about cocoa farming in Belize, competitive Scottish dancing, or lumberjacks in Quebec.

7. The Hot Docs fitness plan—all the major viewing sites are within walking distance of one another and you’ll get so much exercise going between theatres that you’ll probably drop a few pounds without even trying. 

6. You’ll experience a great array of theatres, from the historic Bloor Cinema (opened in 1913) to the ultra-modern TIFF Bell Lightbox (opened in 2010).

5. You’ll enjoy that marvelous Canadian ability to laugh at themselves—one commercial that played before every screening had young documentarians, male and female alike, donning bright red bras to thank the Documentary Channel for supporting them (get it?).

4. Cheap housing is available in the University of Toronto dorms and there are loads of cheap places to eat nearby.

3. Canadians are so nice they’ll be happy to chat with you while remaining tactful about the obvious fact that they know more about us (Americans) than we do about them.

2. One big screen, no little screens. Canadians love their iPhones as much as Americans but they manage to keep them off during screenings.

1. Hot Docs is the largest documentary film festival in North America, showing (in 2011) 199 films from 43 countries. If you are interested in keeping up with documentaries in an international context this is the place to be.

And with that, we have the award winners from Hot Docs 2011:

Best Canadian Feature: Family Portrait in Black and White, directed by Julia Ivanova, a portrait of the multi-racial family of children adopted by Olga Nenya in Ukraine.

Special Jury Prize, Canadian Feature: At Night, They Dance, directed by Isabelle Lavigne and Stephane Thibault, about a family of belly dancers in Egypt; and The Guantanamo Trap, directed by Thomas Selim Wallner, which traces the lives of four individuals connected with the infamous prison camp. Wiebo’s War, directed by David York, was granted an honorable mention.

Best International Feature: Dragonslayer, directed by Tristan Patterson, which follows the life of a California skateboarder who is reaching the outer limits of his ability to remain in an adolescent state.

Special Jury Prize, International Feature: The Castle, directed by Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti, which offers an uncompromising look behind the scenes of the security apparatus of Milan’s Malpensa Airport. Grande Hotel, directed by Lotte Stoops, and Hell and Back Again, directed by Danfung Dennis, were granted honorable mentions.

Best Mid-Length Documentary: Our Newspaper, directed by Eline Flipse, which follows the fortunes of a newspaper founded by a disgruntled journalist in a remote Russian village. People I Could Have Been and Maybe Am, directed by Boris Gerrets, was granted an honorable mention.

Best Short Documentary: Flying Anne, directed by Catherine von Campen, which presents a look inside the world of a girl with Tourette’s syndrome. Something to Tell You, directed by Pete Gleeson, was granted an honorable mention.

The HBO Documentary Films Emerging Artist Award and the Filmmaker’s Award: At the Edge of Russia, directed by Michal Marczak, which focuses on a young military recruit assigned to a remote Arctic post.

Documentary’s Don Haig Award (granted to a Canadian documentary filmmaker) was presented to writer-director Rama Rau.

The Lindalee Tracey Award (for an emerging Canadian filmmaker with a passionate point of view, strong sense of social justice and sense of humor) was presented to Alexandre Hamel.

The Sundance Channel People’s Choice Award: Somewhere Between, directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton, which follows the fortunes of four Chinese-born, American-adopted  girls as they come of age. | Sarah Boslaugh




Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply