Hot Docs to Honour Raymonde Provencher and Stanley Nelson at 2020 Festival

By Pat Mullen

Raymond Provencher
Courtesy of Hot Docs

Raymonde Provencher and Stanley Nelson are the subjects of the Focus On and Outstanding Achievement Award honours at Hot Docs this year. The news comes in a statement released today by Hot Docs. As the 2020 Focus On and Outstanding Achievement Award honourees, Hot Docs recognizes the filmmakers with partial retrospectives of their work at this year’s festival. Both filmmakers will attend Hot Docs.

“Combining a journalist’s tenacity with deep humanism, Raymonde Provencher is a formidable filmmaker and storyteller, whose genuine care for, and interest in, her subjects arises from her profound commitment to women and human rights,” said Shane Smith, director of programming for Hot Docs, in a statement from the festival. “We’re so thrilled to be able to spotlight her films with our Focus On program at this year’s Festival, a body of work that spans the globe and reflects some of its rarely covered stories with deep sincerity and compassion.”

Provencher nurtured an environment for international news programming in Quebec by assisting with the launch of Télé-Québec’s Nord-Sud in 1983. She produced over 100 reports for the program covering a variety of topical issues from around the globe. As a documentary producer, Provencher oversaw the creation of numerous award winners including 1973: The Last Stand of Salvador Allende, Images of a Dictatorship, and Black Wave. 1973: The Last Stand of Salvador Allende was a nominee for the Feature Documentary Award at the 1999 IDA Awards while Black Wave won a Gemini Award for Robert Cornellier’s direction.

Provencher directed the 2003 documentary War Babies, which presented a global view of the lives of women and children shape by rape and war. The film won the Audience Award at the 2003 edition of Hot Docs and makes this year’s Focus On retrospective something of an overdue homecoming for Provencher. War Babies also won two Prix Gémeaux and two Gemini Awards.

Stanley Nelson
Courtesy of Hot Docs

Nelson is best known for his 2003 film The Murder of Emmett Till, which won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Directing for Non-Fiction Programming. He also won two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing and Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking for 2010’s Freedom Riders. He is the recipient of numerous honours for his body of work including News & Documentary Emmy Awards for When I Walk and American Experience. In 2016, Nelson received awards for lifetime achievement from both the Television Academy’s News & Documentary Emmy Awards and the International Documentary Association.

His other acclaimed films include The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, which won the NAACP Image Award for Best Documentary, and last year’s Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for its portrait of the iconic musician. The latter film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, which gave Nelson the distinct honour of being the only filmmaker to screen 10 films at Sundance over the 20-year period since The Murder of Emmett Till.

Nelson’s films offer incisive portraits of African American experiences and reclaim Black histories through film. The filmmaker was previously awarded by President Barack Obama with a National Medal in the Humanities and he has been recognized as a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow.

“We’re honoured to recognize Stanley Nelson, one of the documentary world’s most important voices, with the Hot Docs Outstanding Achievement Award, and to feature a selection of films from Stanley’s impressive body of work,” added Smith via a statement. “His contribution to documentary is unprecedented, with his powerful films providing incisive commentary on the African American experience, while restoring his subjects to their rightful place in history.”

Previous recipients of the Focus On retrospective include Julia Ivanova, John Walker, and Maya Gallus. Recent honourees of the Outstanding Achievement Award are Julia Reichert, Barbara Kopple, and Tony Palmer. Hot Docs also announced Northern Ireland as the focus of this year’s Made In program, which spotlights docs from one nation annually. This year’s edition of Hot Docs runs April 30 to May 10, 2020.