'Scheme Birds,' coming-of-age story about Scottish teen, wins top documentary prize at Tribeca Film Festival
Swedish co-directors Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin also win Best New Documentary Director Award
Scheme Birds, a film about a corner of Scotland where you 'either get knocked up or locked up,' won the top documentary prize Thursday night as awards were handed out at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Directors Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin, both natives of Sweden, also claimed the Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award. Their film revolves around "Scottish teenager Gemma and the people in her life: her grandfather, who raised her after her mother abandoned her; her boyfriend Pat; her unlucky best friend Amy; and her neighbor JP," Tribeca writes in the festival program. "Everyone finds a distraction to stay out of trouble: Papa keeps pigeons and teaches boxing, the kids drink and commit petty crime, and Gemma finds motherhood."
For its poetic, haunting depiction of compelling characters living on the edge. Every element of the film, from editing to cinematography to point of view, is superb.
The Tribeca documentary competition jury, made up of Drake Doremus, Robert Greene, Julie Goldman, Andrew LaVallee and Cheryl McDonough, heaped praise on the film in their citation.
"For its poetic, haunting depiction of compelling characters living on the edge. Every element of the film, from editing to cinematography to point of view, is superb," the jurors wrote. "The filmmakers convey their voice in a unique and present-tense way. We’re proud to present the award for best documentary feature to Scheme Birds.”
The documentary prize comes with a $20,000 award. A $10,000 award is granted to the winner of the documentary directing award, determined by a separate jury made up of David Cross, Orlando von Einsiedel and Kathrine Narducci. Those jurors echoed the praise for Scheme Birds, writing, “For a film that tells a deeply compelling story, but realised with cinematic vision and invited us intimately into the lives of the film’s characters. This film is a remarkable achievement, made even more so because it’s from first time feature directors. The winners for the Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director are Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin.”
Our Time Machine, a film about extraordinary Chinese artist Maleonn and his poignant attempt to stay connected with his father whose memory is failing, won Best Cinematography in a Documentary Film, recognizing the work of Yang Sun and Shuang Liang (Yang co-directed the film with S. Leo Chiang).
"For its insightful visual style that captures loss and uses both intimate and grand spaces to maximum effect," jurors Doremus, Greene, Goldman, LaVallee and McDonough wrote in their citation. "The images elevated a universal story to the realm of dream and metaphor."
Best Editing in a Documentary Film went to Jennifer Tiexiera, who cut 17 Blocks for director Davy Rothbart. Jurors wrote, “The award for best editing goes to a film for its profound treatment of vast amounts of honest, often raw footage. The film is structured in a way that renders some of the most affecting moments with great subtlety. Viewers are transformed over the course of the film, a testament to the choices made in its making."
A Special Jury mention for editing went to Rewind, directed by Sasha Joseph Neulinger: “This brave film uses editing to reveal narrative layers that weren’t immediately apparent, challenging and surprising viewers along the way."
Carol Dysinger's Learning To Skateboard In a Warzone (If You're A Girl) won Best Documentary Short and a $5,000 prize. The shorts jury (Kevin Cahill, David Krumholtz, Kathy Najimy, Sheila Nevins, Agunda Okeyo, Aaron Rodgers, and Buster Scher) wrote, “A revelatory tale of how skateboarding can fuel the future of dignified resistance to gender oppression in war torn Afghanistan. Told through the innocent confessions of young girls and the steadfast dedication of their headstrong female instructors, this film shines an uncompromising and ultimately uplifting light onto righting injustice.”
A Special Jury Mention for documentary short went to St. Louis Superman: “An unflinching and delicate portrait of a loving father with a haunted past who bravely decides to stand up to the powers that be in Ferguson, Missouri."
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.