Eternal Spring takes top prizes at Hot Docs

The feature animated doc about a hack of Chinese state TV won the Hot Docs Audience Award in addition to the first-place $25,000 Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary.

Eternal Spring by Jason Loftus took the first-place $25,000 Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary at the Hot Docs festival.

Loftus directed and produced the feature documentary (pictured), in which exiled Chinese comic book artist Daxiong illustrates the story of a daring hack of Chinese state television by activists.

Masha Loftus, Yvan Pinard, Kevin Koo were the other producers on the film, which also placed first in the overall audience poll and won the Hot Docs Audience Award.

The $15,000 second-place prize for the Rogers Audience Award, which is determined audience votes, went to Okay! (The ASD Band Film), directed by Mark Bone and produced by Gregory Rosati and Amalie Bruun. The film follows four musicians on the autism spectrum as they prepare for their first live show.

Taking the $10,000 third-place prize for best Canadian feature doc was Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children, directed by Barri Cohen and produced by Craig Baines. The film details an account of abuse at Ontario’s oldest government-run home for disabled children.

Okay! (The ASD Band Film) also placed second in the overall audience poll while Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children came in third.

Other Canadian winners at this year’s Hot Docs, which ran in-person and online from April 28 to May 8, included Dad Can Dance, directed and produced by Jamie Ross. The story of a son who discovers his father’s secret passion for ballet took the Audience Award for Short Documentary.

Canadian winners in this year’s official competition included Geographies of Solitude, directed by Jacquelyn Mills, who also produced with Rosalie Chicoine Perreault. The film about self-taught naturalist and environmentalist Zoe Lucas took the $10,000 Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award.

Mills was also declared the recipient of the Earl A. Glick Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award, which includes a $3,000 cash prize.

The $5,000 DGC Special Jury Prize – Canadian Feature Documentary went to Rojek, directed by Zaynê Akyol, who also produced with Sylvain Corbeil and Audrey-Ann Dupuis-Pierre. The film looks at Syrian detention centres and features conversations with key members of the Islamic State.

Getting an honourable mention for the DGC Special Jury Prize was the Canada-Lebanon-Qatar copro Batata, directed by Noura Kevorkian, who also produced with Paul Scherzer.

The $3,000 Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary was presented to Perfecting the Art of Longing, directed by Kitra Cahana and produced by Kat Baulu and Ariel Nasr. The story sees the daughter of a quadriplegic rabbi in a long-term-care facility filming him remotely while he was cut off from his loved ones during the pandemic lockdown.

An honourable mention for Betty Youson Award went to The Benevolents, directed and produced by Sarah Baril Gaudet.

Iranian Canadian filmmaker Avazeh Shahnavaz won the Lindalee Tracey Award, which honours an emerging Canadian filmmaker “with a passionate point of view, a strong sense of social justice and a sense of humour.” The prize comes with $5,000 in post-production services from SIM, and a hand-blown glass sculpture by Andrew Kuntz, specially commissioned to honour Lindalee.

As previously announced, Toronto-based producer Mila Aung-Thwin, producer of Midwives and co-founder of Montreal-based EyeSteelFilm, received the $5,000 Don Haig Award.