Awardsreflect growing interest in docs

Documentary films are being taken seriously at last. Well, they’ve always been taken seriously by filmmakers, but not necessarily by broadcasters.

But the genre has been getting more respect on the small screen lately, primarily because of the large audiences it is attracting. Most recently, Red Capitalism from Mark Starowicz at the cbc drew an average minute audience of 1.43 million, and the first two episodes of the documentary series Pierre Elliott Trudeau Memoirs (produced by Les Productions la fete in association with cbc, directed by Brian McKenna) drew 1.76 million and 1.43 million respectively.

In this more hospitable climate, the Canadian Independent Film Caucus is launching Hot Docs, four days of documentary film workshops and screenings, capped by an awards presentation, to be held in Toronto Feb. 24-27.

The awards, which will be an annual showcase for Canadian talent, originally started as an event to honor the 10th anniversary of the cifc, says Paul Jay, cochair of the caucus. ‘The time is right because we have matured as an organization and as filmmakers. We are a viable sector of the industry,’ he says.

The awards also coincide with the 10th anniversary of Telefilm Canada’s broadcast fund, which has financed 325 documentaries over the years.

According to Jay, the event wasn’t organized because the caucus was frustrated with other award shows, but it did want to have ‘one playing field’ for documentaries. Docs get lost in the Geminis, Genies and Yorkton Festival because there are a number of other categories, says Jay.

Through the awards and workshops, documentaries will be getting a place of their own, and judging by early response, people are enthusiastic about the new event. Hot Docs has received 140 entries and 22 sponsors have come on board, including Kodak Canada. British Columbia Film, Saskfilm and sogic are helping filmmakers travel to Toronto to attend the ceremony.

Kicking off the event is Nick Broomfield’s documentary Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer and Andre Mathieu Musicien by director Jean-Claude Labrecque.

Several industry conferences have also been planned, including a filmmakers’ working group, and workshops addressing the survival of point-of-view documentaries and new technologies.

While the cifc is based in Toronto, the majority of nominees are from regions other than Ontario. And although its members are independents, the caucus decided to also include documentaries produced in-house and through the National Film Board.

Following are the Hot Docs ’94 nominees:

Best political documentary

- Black Sheep – producer, Eric Michel, National Film Board; director, Jacques Godbout

- Moving the Mountain – producer, Malcolm Guy, Productions Multi-Monde; directors, William Gee Wee Dere, Malcolm Guy

- Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media – producers, Peter Wintonick, Mark Achbar, Adam Symansky, Necessary Illusions in coproduction with the nfb; directors, Mark Achbar, Peter Wintonick

- Blockade – producer/director, Nettie Wild

Best short documentary

- Minoru: Memories of Exile – producer Bill Pettigrew, nfb; director, Michael Fukushima

Best science/technology/ environment documentary

- Heartland – producer/director, Jeth Weinrich, Red Motel Pictures

- Battle for the Trees – producer, Gillian Darling, Sarus Productions; director, John Edginton

- Space For Four – producer/ director, Andrew Cochran, Andrew Cochran Associates

- Hidden World of Bog – producer, Caroline Underwood, cbc Nature of Things

Best arts/culture/biography documentary

- La vie du charme – producer, Marcel Simard, Les Productions Virage; director, Jean Philippe Duval

- Entre elle et moi – producer/ director, Mireille Dansereau, Cine Pleurielles

- Bowl of Bone/Tale of the Syuwe – producer/director, Jan Marie Martell, Turtle Productions

Best social issues documentary

- In the Gutter and Other Good Places – producer/director, Cristine Richey, Ladder to the Moon Productions

- English For Yu – producer, Peter Conrad; director, Radmilo Sarenac for Rogers Community 20

- Les Fiances de la Tour Eiffel – producer Colette Blanchard, nfb; director, Gilles Blais