Sylvia D. Hamilton and Tamara Mariam Dawit are the recipients of this year’s Doc Institute Honours Awards. The filmmakers will received the DOC Luminary Award and DOC Vanguard Award, respectively. The DOC Luminary Award recognizes an industry veteran whose work has positively advanced the Canadian documentary field, while the DOC Vanguard Award honours an emerging to mid-career filmmaker whose work embodies the future of the medium. The awards were announced today via a release from the DOC Institute.
Hamilton is a veteran of the Canadian film scene whose work includes a formative period in the NFB’s Studio D years where she advanced the Board’s female-forward efforts by creating opportunities for women of colour to represent their stories onscreen through the New Initiatives in Film program. Hamilton’s credits as a filmmaker include Black Mother, Black Daughter (1989), Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia (1993), Portia White: Think on Me (2000), and The Little Black School House (2007). Hamilton’s films emphasize Black history in Canada, particularly the oral histories and stories that slip through the cracks of recorded narratives. Hamilton is a founding member of the Atlantic Chapter of the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC), as well as accomplished poet and professor emeritus at the University of King’s College’s School of Journalism in Halifax. In 2019, Hamilton received the Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media.
“The late pioneering documentary filmmaker, St. Clair Bourne, gave a workshop in Toronto in the ’90s for Black Canadian filmmakers, and he said ‘Everyone should have the right and opportunity to see themselves reflected in the cultural expressions of the land in which they live.’ And I add, ‘the right and responsibility to be equipped with the tools to create those stories for the screen,’” said Hamilton in a statement from the DOC Institute. “This recognition urges me to continue to help emerging media makers, in whatever way I can, to tell their stories. We depend on them, and we need them to move us onward. Thank you.”
DOC Vanguard winner Tamara Mariam Dawit premiered her first feature Finding Sally at Hot Docs 2020. The doc traces the story of the Ethiopian-Canadian filmmaker’s aunt, whose existence was unknown to her until a family slip-up encouraged her to explore the life that was hidden before her eyes. The film connects the story of Dawit’s aunt Sally within the larger systemic inequalities throughout Ethiopia. Dawit also works as a policy advisor and is a founding board member of the Racial Equity Media Collective and in Africa of Ethiopia Creates and the East Africa Screen Collective. She receives $10,000 of film equipment from Canadian production supplier SIM-International as part of the DOC Vanguard Award.
“I’m happy to be recognized for my work by the documentary community, which is where I started my career as a producer over fifteen years ago,” said Dawit in a statement. “I don’t know if this award is about my work as a filmmaker, or volunteering, or work for racial equity work in the screen sector, but I do hope that this recognition is a part of the change that will make our industry in Canada more sustainable, and more accessible for other African female filmmakers. Thank you to everyone, āmeseginalehu.”
Previous recent recipients of the DOC Luminary Award include Alanis Obomsawin, Zoe Dirse, Anne Pick, Daniel Cross, and POV editor Marc Glassman. Recent winners of the DOC Vanguard include Lisa Jackson, Millefiore Clarkes, Amar Wala, and Victoria Lean. The celebrations for the 8th annual DOC Institute Honours have been postponed until 2022.