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Documentaries Sweep Awards at VIFF


By Robert Alstead - Posted on 17 October 2009

True to form, it was documentaries that swept up most of the awards at this year's VIFF. There were plenty of docs to chose from this year with nearly half of the festival’s feature and mid-length films being nonfiction (there were 103 nonfiction and 134 dramas in total).

Winner of The Rogers People’s Choice Award - the audience award - was Soundtrack For A Revolution (USA), directed by Bill Guttentag.

The story of the music that helped power the American Civil Rights Movement - it features contemporary performances by the likes of Wyclef Jean, John Legend, Anthony Hamilton and the Blind Boys of Alabama, set to archive footage and interviews with the leaders of the time.

All of the festival’s 377 films – dramas and nonfiction, short, mid-length and features – were eligible, and festival-goers chose the most popular film by rating every film they saw on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent).

The winner of the documentary Audience Award went to Facing Ali (Canada/BC). Pete McCormack's documentary looks at three-time world heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali through the eyes of ten of his rivals. Ali, now suffering from Parkinson's Disease, came to Vancouver for the premiere.

The jury for the Canadian Images program awarded the inaugural Canwest Award for Best Canadian Feature Film and its $20,000 cash prize to director Xavier Dolan of Montreal for I Killed My Mother (J’ai tué ma mere). The winner was selected from 19 films in competition. The jury included Vancouver-based actor, writer and director Ben Ratner; filmmaker Lynne Stopkewich, also of Vancouver; and producer/writer Kevin Tierney of Montreal.

The Most Popular Canadian Film Award went to 65_RedRoses (Canada/BC) directed by Nimisha Mukerjee and Philip Lyall.

65_RedRoses also won the National Film Board of Canada’s Most Popular Canadian Documentary Award.

The film documents the crippling effects of Cystic Fibrosis on the normally vital Eva Markvoort and shows her hopes and fears as she deals with illness, a cure for which involves a lung transplant.

Markvoort and Mukerjee were at the VIFF programme launch in September when I snapped this picture (above) of them together in great spirits.

The VIFF Environmental Film Audience Award went to At the Edge of the World (USA), which I reviewed earlier, directed by Dan Stone. The doc is an entertaining cat and mouse nautical adventure about environmental group Sea Shepherd as it pursues Japanese whaling ships in the Antarctic.

The $10,000 Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema, supported by donors Brad Birarda and Robert Sali, went to JANG Kun-Jae of South Korea for Eighteen, one of eight shortlisted films.

The award is presented to the director of a creative and innovative film from East Asia that has not yet won significant international recognition, the award was previously announced on October 8.

The Women in Film & Television Vancouver presented its Artistic Merit Award to Nimisha Mukerji, co-director, producer and editor, and Gillian Lowry, co-producer, of 65_RedRoses. The award is given annually to a B.C. woman filmmaker or performer of distinction whose work appeared at VIFF this year.

The Canadian Images jury awarded a $2,000 cash award to directors Jan Binsse and David Tougas of Montreal for their film The Last Act (Le dernier acte). The competition was open to first-time filmmakers. An anonymous donor contributed the cash prize.

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