Film about dancer Bobbi Jene Smith wins three awards; True Conviction earns special jury mention
Tribeca jurors are heaping praise on the dance-themed documentary Bobbi Jene.
Elvira Lind's film about the dancer Bobbi Jene Smith was named best documentary Thursday, but the awards for the film didn't end there. It also won best cinematography and best editing honors.
"Fulfilling the promise of classic cinema verite, where camera serves as both observer and provocation, this film connected two artists, filmmaker and subject, pushing nonfiction intimacy to bold new places," the doc jury said in announcing the prize. The judging panel was made up of two-time Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple, Emmy winner R.J. Cutler, David Wilson, filmmaker and co-founder of the True/False Film Fest, filmmaker Alma Har'el, and Anne Thompson, editor-at-large at IndieWire.
In a diverse field of worthy films, one work captivated our jury with its exquisite blend of emotional depth and rigorous craft.
Lind's film explores the artistic career and personal journey of Smith, who spent a decade as a star in the renowned Batsheva dance company of Tel Aviv, under the direction of choreographer Ohad Naharin (focus of the documentary Mr. Gaga). Smith made the difficult decision to leave the company and return to her native U.S., where she took on the challenge of becoming a choreographer herself.
"With a fly-on-the-wall approach, director Elvira Lind makes the viewer feel a part of Bobbi’s process as she hones and perfects her movements," Tribeca programmer Jule Rozite wrote in her description of the film. "Bobbi’s natural grace and humility infuses every scene, making the film a mesmerizing and eye-opening experience."
The best documentary prize comes with a $20,000 award for Lind. As shot her film, earning the best cinematography prize at Tribeca, which comes with a $2,500 award.
Bobbi Jene's prize for best editing recognized the work of Adam Nielson, earning him a $2,500 award.
Jamie Meltzer's film True Conviction won a special mention from the jury, which hailed the documentary for "its compelling storytelling and for introducing us to three heroic characters who transform the injustice they suffered into active change."
Those heroic characters are Christopher Scott, Johnnie Lindsey, and Steven Phillips, all three of whom were wrongfully convicted of crimes in separate cases in Texas. They served 60 years behind bars between them, and after their long-awaited release founded an organization to help free other wrongfully-convicted people.
At a Q&A following the world premiere of True Conviction, Meltzer explained his decision to take on the project.
"The resilience that these guys had, their spirit to want to turn what they experienced into something positive, into some change, it just deeply affected me and I was on board right there," he told the Tribeca audience.
A separate jury judged films eligible for the Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award, named for the late filmmaking giant. That prize went to Sarita Khurana and Smriti Mundhra for their film A Suitable Girl, which explores the tradition of arranged marriages in India through the eyes of three young women.
The Maysles award jury gave a special mention to Hondros, a documentary by Greg Campbell, which explores the life of the late photographer Chris Hondros, who was killed while covering the violent uprising in Libya in 2011.
Best Documentary Short went to The Good Fight directed by Ben Holman, a film set in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.
Tribeca's audience award winners will be revealed on Saturday, April 29.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.