A Love Song for Latasha, Collective, 76 Days among other winners
DOC NYC, the country's largest all-documentary film festival, announced the winners of its 2020 awards today, lauding Cecilia Aldarondo's Landfall with the Grand Jury Prize.
The jury praised Landfall, which focuses on Puerto Rico both before and after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, “[f]or its piercing yet poetic observational gaze, rigorous control in illuminating complex issues and the logics of disaster capitalism, and collaborative production with local activists... The ambitious scope of this film transcends humanitarian narratives in weaving together present, past, and future visions of solidarity and resistance.”
To whom will paradise belong?
"While the devastation of [Hurricane] María attracted a great deal of media coverage, the world has paid far less attention to the storm that preceded it: a 72-billion-dollar debt crisis crippling Puerto Rico well before the winds and waters hit," reads a description of the film. "Landfall examines the kinship of these two storms-one environmental, the other economic-juxtaposing competing utopian visions of recovery. Featuring intimate, quotidian encounters with Puerto Ricans as well as with the newcomers flooding the island, Landfall asks: Who stands to gain and lose from this vision? To whom will paradise belong?"
Landfall's win came in what DOC NYC labels its "Viewfinders" competition. Also earning notice in that category was Through the Night, which received a Special Jury Mention for Ethics of Care. Loira Limbal's documentary examines a 24-hour childcare center in New Rochelle, New York that has proven a lifesaver for parents who work night shifts, as well as single mothers.
Jurors for the Viewfinders section were Simon Kilmurry, executive director of the International Documentary Association; Jolene Pinder, former executive director, Kartemquin Films, and Abby Sun, curator of The DocYard.
In the shorts competition, Sing Me a Lullaby, directed by Tiffany Hsiung, won the Grand Jury Prize. That jury, made up of Jackie Glover, head of documentary at ABC News, Liliana Rodriguez, artistic director of the Palm Springs International Film Society, and filmmaker Angela Tucker, praised the documentary "[f]or its ability to evoke an emotional depth that takes you on an intimate journey that is both poignant and packs a punch."
DOC NYC also awards prizes among the features and shorts named to its short lists of the year's best documentaries. The feature directing award there went to Garrett Bradley for Time, a study of Fox Rich, "an entrepreneur, author, and mother of six, who has spent 21 years fighting for the release of her husband, Rob, from a 60-year prison sentence for a first-time offense."
These are the other prizes awarded to shortlisted feature documentaries at DOC NYC:
Producing Award: Welcome to Chechnya, produced by Alice Henty, Joy A. Tomchin, Askold Kurov, and David France
Jurors’ statement: “The jury is proud to acknowledge the delicate touch, human care and creative gymnastics necessary to produce this powerful film. The filmmakers gained access to this dangerous world in which the film's subjects took great risks, and then used innovative technology to protect them, allowing these men and women to share their heartbreaking stories and inspirational acts of bravery with the world. Hats off.”
Editing Award: Boys State, edited by Jeff Gilbert
Jurors’ statement: “The jury recognizes Jeff Gilbert for delivering an expertly crafted story that is both infused with great momentum and intimacy. Jeff has masterfully shaped an engaging and well-paced film that sneaks up on the audience and reveals a metaphor for the world of American politics on the big stage.”
Cinematography Award: 76 Days, cinematography by Weixi Chen and Anonymous
Jurors’ statement: “The jurors wish to shine a light on Anonymous and Weixi Chen for risking their lives to make this film in the early days of the pandemic in Wuhan, China. In harrowing circumstances, these two brave and determined individuals achieve beautifully executed verite footage and moving compositions, bringing this hospital and its unforgettable staff into stark relief.”
Special Jury Recognition for Truth to Power: Collective, directed by Alexander Nanau
Jurors’ statement: “Kudos to the vision and tenacity of the film team that was able to elegantly realize this powerful portrait of a newspaper as it exposes a corrupt healthcare system and the influence of politics on the lives of Romanians. We deeply admire the formidable structure, attention to detail, remarkable access, and the fearlessness and determination of the filmmakers and their protagonists toward speaking truth to rotten power.”
The jury determining the awards for shortlisted features was comprised of filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Beth Levison, and film editor Carla Gutierrez.
Among DOC NYC's shortlisted shorts, A Love Song for Latasha earned the directing award.
“Director Sophia Nahli Allison implements a remarkable marriage of distinct vision and personal narrative," jurors Carol Dysinger, Chiemi Karasawa, and Bernardo Ruiz noted. "The jury is deeply moved by the bold and imaginative employment of elements to make visible to the world what so many forces have connived to make disappear. The place of one young woman in her community, her family, her friends - to make a personal story emotionally rich, relatable, and resonant for all audiences. Sophia Nahli Allison showed a director's determination to use every element to bring her vision, her passion, and her community to the screen.”
The jurors awarded a special prize for Courage Under Fire to Do Not Split, directed by Andres Hammer, a film that examines aspects of China's anti-democratic crackdown on Hong Kong.
“The jury could not ignore the tremendous tenacity and courage it took to turn such perilous events into a greater political narrative," jurors said in a statement. "We recognize the courage to capture the chaos as great events unfold in the individual and collective acts of resistance. We give this award for both the courage in production and the bravery of its final form and applaud the success of this endeavor."
DOC NYC also awards prizes in its Metropolis section, recognizing films that highlight New York City and New Yorkers. These were the winners in that category:
Grand Jury Prize: Five Years North, directed by Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple and produced by Jenna Kelly
Jurors’ statement: “For its use of a keen empathetic eye to capture individual stories and its ability to blend them to create a multi-dimensional, far-reaching portrait of a pressing issue, we recognize Five Years North with the Grand Jury Prize. The prolonged filming period not only shows the patience and dedication of its filmmakers, but reveals the nuance and complexities of the participants’ lives and stories.”
Special Jury Recognition for Best Use of Archival Material: Wojnarowicz, directed and produced by Chris McKim and produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato
Jurors’ statement: “For its meticulous use of archival elements to enliven a life and its work, we recognize Wojnarowicz with a special jury recognition. The craft of the film beautifully mirrors the melding of life, art, politics, and the culture of New York City that defined its subject.”
DOC NYC also announced the following:
[F]or the first time ever, DOC NYC will extend its program for an additional ten-day DOC NYC Encore, running through Sunday, November 29. Available online to audiences throughout the United States, the Encore program will present more than 70 features from DOC NYC’s 2020 edition, including select award winners, while also continuing to offer new DOC NYC Live filmmaker conversations, presented on Facebook Live, daily November 20-24. For a lineup of DOC NYC Live events and a list of Encore films, see www.docnyc.net.
Voting for the festival’s Audience Award continues through November 19; the winner of the award will be announced shortly after voting closes.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.