Geographies of Solitude and Blue Island lead the winners of the jury awards at this year’s Hot Docs festival. Hot Docs announced the winners today in a live ceremony hosted by Garvia Bailey at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Geographies of Solitude won the Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award for its experimental portrait of researcher Zoe Lucas and her work on Sable Island. The film is directed by Jacquelyn Mills and produced by Mills and Rosalie Chicoine Perreault. The award includes a cash prize of $10,000, sponsored by Telefilm and the Documentary Organization of Canada.
The jury praised Geographies of Solitude for “its 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.” Mills also won the Earl A. Glick Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award, which honours an artist presenting their first or second feature at the festival. The award carries a cash prize of $3,000, sponsored by the Glick family.
Rojek, meanwhile, won the DGC Special Jury Prize for Canadian Feature Documentary. Directed by Zaynê Akyol and produced by Sylvain Corbeil and Audrey-Ann Dupuis-Pierre, Rojek is a poetic study of the aftershocks of war in Syrian Kurdistan featuring 1:1 interviews with members of ISIS responsible for atrocities committed in the region. Rojek receives a cash prize of $5,000 with the award. The jury praised the film for its “sensitive curiosity about its subjects’ lived experiences and internal lives, self-reflexive interrogation of the documentary filmmaking process, and unique contextualization of the fragile state of peace.” The jury also gave an honourable mention to Batata, directed by Noura Kevorkian, which observes Syrian migrants as they try to rebuild their lives.
On the international front, Hot Docs’ award for Best International Feature went to Blue Island. Directed by Chan Tze Woon and produced by Peter Yam, the film is a co-production between Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan. Blue Island explores the tensions in Hong Kong under the shadow of mainland China and interrogates what it means to be a citizen in a state of fear. The award carries a cash prize of $10,000 and, as a result of the Hot Docs win, Blue Island is now eligible in the category of Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards without having to do the habitual theatrical run to qualify.
The Special Jury Prize – International Feature Documentary was given to The Wind Blows the Border. Directed by Laura Faerman and Marina Weis, and produced by Rodrigo Díaz Díaz and Luís Ludmer, the Brazilian film observes an Indigenous woman as she protects her land from encroaching development. The Wind Blows the Border receives a cash prize of $5,000 sponsored by A&E.
Bogna Kowalczyc won the Emerging International Filmmaker Award for her feature Boylesque. The Polish/Czech co-production is an intimate and lively character study about Poland’s eldest drag queen as she performs amid one of the most homophobic climates in Europe. Kowalczyc receives a cash prize of $3,000 with the award.
A cash prize of $3,000 also went to director lain Gomis as his Rewind & Play won the award for Best Mid-Length Feature. Produced by Anouk Khélifa and Arnaud Dommerc, the film profiles jazz icon Thelonious Monk.
On the shorts front, Perfecting the Art of Longing and More Than I Remember now qualify in the Oscar race for Best Documentary Short after winning the awards for best Canadian and best international short, respectively. Perfecting the Art of Longing, directed by Kitra Cahana and produced by Kat Baulu and Ariel Nasr, is a National Film Board of Canada work about a quadriplegic rabbi in a long-term-care facility during the COVID-19 lockdown. As the winner of the Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary, the film receives a cash prize of $3,000 from the family of Betty Youson. The Benevolents, directed and produced by Sarah Baril Gaudet, received an honourable mention in the category.
Daniel Roher’s Navalny, meanwhile, won the Scotiabank Docs for Schools Student’s Choice Award. The win carries a cash prize of $5,000 as determined by the votes of the students participating in the Docs for Schools program.
Other honours celebrated at the Hot Docs Award ceremony included the presentation of the previously announced Don Haig award to Mila Aung-Thwin, who is at the festival with Midwives. Veteran filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, meanwhile, was presented with Hot Docs’ Outstanding Achievement Award for his body of work. The Lindalee Tracey Award, finally, went to Avazeh Shahnavaz. The award honours an emerging Canadian filmmaker with a noted artistic vision and eye for social justice. It carries a cash prize of $5,000 and $5,000 in post-production services from SIM.
Hot Docs will announce the winners of the Audience Award and Rogers Audience Award for Canadian film following the festival.