Hot Docs 2021: Zo Reken, One Of Ours claim top prizes

Emanuel Licha, Yasmine Mathurin and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers won honours at the annual doc fest


Directors Emanuel Licha, Yasmine Mathurin and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers have won the top Canadian film awards at the 2021 Hot Docs film festival.

At a livestreamed ceremony earlier this evening, Montreal’s Licha picked up the $10,000 Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award for Zo Reken, a portrait of Haitians and aid workers in Port-au-Prince dealing with the ongoing humanitarian crisis sparked by an earthquake 11 years ago.

“Emanuel Licha uses cinematic metaphor to evoke the dignity of a people and the human trap that is the international aid industrial complex,” the jury said in a statement. “Its minimalist controlled tableaus and carefully chosen conversations provide an unflinching gaze at the violent, often self-defeating consequences of foreign aid.”

Toronto-based Mathurin took home the $5,000 Special Jury Prize for Canadian Feature Documentary for One Of Ours, about Haitian-born Josiah Wilson who wrestles with a sense of belonging to his adoptive Indigenous family after organizers of the All Native Basketball Tournament invoked a blood quantum rule to disqualify him from shooting hoops with his peers.

In a statement, the jury said Mathurin’s film “adeptly and lovingly examines the nuances of race, sexuality and family relationships in present day Canada in all its glorious and heartbreaking messiness. With such exceptional access the film reassures the viewer that tenderness and acceptance and respect remain front and center of the story.”   

Director Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers won the Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award for Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning Of Empathy, which looks at the impact of the opioid crisis on Kainai First Nation and efforts of local doctors – including her mother Esther Tailfeathers – to effect a paradigm shift in thinking around harm reduction.

The jury called Tailfeathers’s film “unflinching in its treatment of an issue we’ve often seen only from the outside. The ongoing tragedies are portrayed with deep familiarity and care, so every frame beams with a sense of love and support for the dignity of this unjustly wounded culture.” Read NOW’s conversation with Tailfeathers and filmmaker/journalist Tanya Talaga here.

Svetlana Rodina and Laurent Stoop claimed the Best International Feature Documentary Award for Ostrov – Lost Island, a portrait of a Caspian Sea fishing island at a cultural crossroads. Mohamed El Aboudi took home the Special Jury Prize for International Feature Documentary for School Of Hope, which follows the Oulad Boukais tribe’s efforts to set up a school during a drought in Morocco.

The Emerging International Filmmaker Award went to Annabel Verbekefor for Four Seasons In A Day, in which ferry passengers travelling between Northern Island and the European Union candidly chat about Brexit. The jury also gave a special mention to director Margaret Byrne for Any Given Day, an intimate look at mental health and the criminal justice system in Chicago’s Cook County.

The five winners of the Hot Docs Rogers Audience Award for Best Documentaries (which comes with a total of $50,000) will be announced on May 9 at 7 pm. Tune in to that here.

Check out the full list of Hot Docs 2021 juried award winners below, and NOW’s directory of film reviews here.

Best Canadian Feature Documentary

Zo Roken (D: Emanuel Licha)

Special Jury Prize – Canadian Feature Documentary

One Of Ours (D: Yasmine Mathurin)

Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award

Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning Of Empathy

Best International Feature Documentary Award

Ostrov – Lost Island (D: Svetlana Rodina and Laurent Stoop)

Special Jury Prize – International Feature Documentary

School Of Hope (D: Mohamed El Aboudi)

Emerging International Filmmaker Award

Annabel Verbekefor, Four Seasons In A Day

Margaret Byrne, Any Given Day (acknowledgement)

Best Mid-Length Documentary

Silent Voice (D: Reka Valerik)

Sunny (D: Keti Machavariani) (acknowledgement)

Best International Short Documentary Award

The Doll (D: Elahe Esmaili)

Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary

Ain’t No Time For Women (D: Sarra El Abed)

The Hairdresser (D: Lorraine Price)

Lindalee Tracey Award

Between Us (D: Cailleah Scott-Grimes)

Don Haig Award

Lalita Krishna, producer, Bangla Surf Girls / Elizabeth D. Costa, director, Bangla Surf Girls

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