‘Prayer for a Lost Mitten’ and ‘Stray’ Lead Hot Docs Winners

Jean-François Lesage’s Prayer for a Lost Mitten is this year’s Best Canadian Feature winner at Hot Docs

By Pat Mullen

Jean-François Lesage’s Prayer for a Lost Mitten is this year’s Hot Docs winner for Best Canadian Feature. Hot Docs announced the winners of its juried awards ahead of the online edition of its 2020 festival, which begins May 28. Prayer for a Lost Mitten offers an elegiac portrait of unclaimed items and their owners in the lost and found of Montreal’s subway system. The film receives a cash prize of $5000 sponsored by the Documentary Organization of Canada and Telefilm Canada. Of Prayer for a Lost Mitten, the jury remarked, “Director Jean-François Lesage’s instincts for storytelling are on full display in this beautifully crafted film. The jury was drawn in by Lesage’s clever and tender approach that shows a true love for his subjects.”

The Special Jury Prize for Canadian features went to Stateless, directed by Michèle Stephenson. The NFB co-pro offers a potent essay on anti-Black racism and its colonial legacy as Stephenson follows various parties in support of or protest against legislation in the Dominican Republic that stripped statehood from residents of Haitian descent. “Director Michèle Stephenson has created a powerful and nuanced exploration of the lives and struggles of Dominicans of Haitian descent,” the jury noted in a statement. “The stories of those fighting for justice are woven together with evocative poetic sequences and intimate personal moments, resulting in a poignant portrait of people determined to resist centuries-old forces of racism and oppression.”

Other Canadian winners included the Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award for Ying Wang’s The World Is Bright. Oksana Karpovych received a special citation from the jury for Don’t Worry, the Doors Will Open. Her film won the equivalent emerging filmmaker prize at RIDM in 2019.

On the international front, the award for Best International Feature went to Stray, directed by Elizabeth Lo. The American production observes stray dogs roaming the streets of Turkey. As the winner of the Hot Docs award for Best International Feature, Stray is now eligible for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature without the habitual theatrical run required for contention. The jury praised the film for its “strong visual storytelling and unique approach,” noting, “Lo has given us a simple outcast story that reveals much more about our own humanity.”

Hot Docs is also an Academy Award qualifying festival for the documentary shorts. The winners of both the Canadian and international short doc prizes are now eligible for the Best Documentary (Short Subject) Oscar. The winners are Theola Ross’s êmîcêtôcêt: Many Bloodlines and Marlén Viñayo’s Unforgiveable for best Canadian and international short documentary, respectively.

The awards also included the release of winners from the Hot Docs Forum, which occurred last week during its online run and distributed $190,000 in cash and prizes to successful projects.

The full list of Hot Docs 2020 winners are as follows:


Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award: Prayer for a Lost Mitten – dir. Jean-François Lesage

Special Jury Prize – Canadian Feature Documentary: Stateless – dir. Michèle Stephenson

Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award: The World Is Bright – dir. Ying Wang
Special mention: Don’t Worry, the Doors Will Open – dir. Oksana Karpovych

Best International Feature: Stray – dir. Elizabeth Lo | USA

Special Jury Prize – International Feature Documentary: 499 – dir. Rodrigo Reyes

Emerging International Filmmaker Award: Bulletproof – dir. Todd Chandler
Special mention: A Colombian Family – dir. Tanja Wol Sørensen | Denmark

Best Mid-Length Documentary: Mother-Child – dir. Andrea Testa | Argentina
Special mention: Eyes & Arms – dir. Panahbarkhoda Rezaee | Iran

Best International Short Documentary Award: Unforgivable dir. Marlén Viñayo | El Salvador

Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary: êmîcêtôcêt: Many Bloodlines – Theola Ross
Honourable mention: In the Shadow of the Pines – Anne Koizum

Lindalee Tracy Award: Salar Pashtoonyar – Bad Omen

Don Haig Award: Bob Moore


first look prize: Children of the Mist – dir. Hà Lệ Diễm | Vietnam

first look runner-up: Just a Band – dir. Anjali Nayar, Mbithi Masya | Canada/Kenya

first look honourable mention: Masha – dir. Giedrė Žickytė | France/Latvia/Lithuania

Corus-Hot Docs Forum Pitch Prize: Ojiibikaan – dir. Rémy Huberdeau, Sean Stiller | Canada

Hot Docs Al Jazeera Short Pitch: (tie) Six Mile and Woodward – Erin Byrnes, Allie Jaynes, Lucia Ho and Illegal Billboards – Cat Mills, Felicity Justrabo