Alison Duke | OYA Media Group

Alison Duke to Receive Don Haig Award at Hot Docs

Award honours an independent producer with a history of mentorship

5 mins read

Alison Duke is the winner of the Don Haig Award at Hot Docs this year. The festival announced today that Duke would receive the honour, which is presented to an established independent Canadian producer who has a film at Hot Docs this year and a significant body of work. Part of the consideration for the latter includes the recipient’s history of mentorship. Duke has notably fulfilled the latter with her work at OYA Media Group where she and fellow producer Ngardy Conteh George have made a commitment to fostering the next generation of Black creatives.

Duke is at the festival this year with A Woman Apart. The film directed by Laurie Townshend offers a personal look at Jamaican American poet and LGBTQ+ activist Staceyann Chin as she goes on a two-pronged journey to understand her relationships with her mother and her daughter. In her review for POV, Susan G. Cole called the film “a tale of real strength and joy.” Duke also produced and directed the upcoming documentary Bam Bam: The Story of Sister Nancy. The film was recently announced to have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in June. It’s one of few Canadian films at the festival.

“I am humbled and honoured to receive this award, and I am grateful to Hot Docs for this recognition. When my partner, Ngardy Conteh George, and I joined forces to found OYA Media Group in 2018, we did so to bring an authentic perspective to screen-based platforms through socially relevant, life-changing stories that amplify Black experiences.  We are deeply connected and inspired by our community, and we recognize that our stories must be told as we strive for the highest calibre of quality and professionalism,” said Duke in a statement from the festival. As part of her win with the Don Haig Award, Duke will receive a $5,000 cash prize, courtesy of the Don Haig Foundation.

“I want to thank our co-production partner, the NFB, for their attentive support in the production and release of our film A Mother Apart, directed by Laurie Townshend and produced by Justine Pimlott, Ngardy Conteh George and me. This beautiful film had its world premiere at Hot Docs on Friday, April 26, and features the powerful spoken word poet Staceyann Chin, who navigates parenting her daughter Zuri while she searches for her mother, who abandoned her in childhood.  If you haven’t seen it, I hope you can all catch it in theatres or on the documentary Channel later this year,” Duke added.

Duke’s credits include Mr. Jane and Finch, which she produced and co-write with George. The documentary follows Toronto activist and political candidate Winston LaRose. It won two 2020 Canadian Screen Awards including the Donald Brittain Award for best social-political documentary. Additional credits as a producer include Garbage: The Revolution Starts at Home (2007), directed by Andrew Nisker; Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photography and the Emergence of a People (2014), directed by Thomas Allen; and the doc series Akua Benjamin Legacy Project: celebrating 50 years of Black activism (2017) and Evil by Design: Exposing Peter Nygard (2022).

Duke directed the 2001 documentary Raising Kane: A Rapumentary, which was produced by Karen King and won the documentary prize at the Urbanworld Film Festival. She also directed the Heritage Minute about Chloe Cooley, an enslaved Black woman whose resistance in 1793 helped bring limits to slavery in Upper Canada. The credit made Duke the first Black woman to direct a Heritage Minute despite their longevity in Canadian media. She recently was among the directors and producers behind the doc series Black Community Mixtapes, which scored five Canadian Screen Award nominations including Best Direction.

Recent winners of the Don Haig Award include producers Bonnie Thompson (2023), Mila Aung-Thwin (2022), Lalita Krishna (2021), Bob Moore (2020), Peter Raymont (2019), and Ina Fichman (2018). The award will be presented to Duke at the Hot Docs Awards presentation on Friday, May 3, at CSI Annex at 7:30 pm.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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