POV series producer Yance Ford attended the Cinema Eye Awards on Sunday.
The Cinema Eye Honors were held on Sunday at the stunning Times Center on West 41st Street in Manhattan. Believe it or not, you might have seen the Times Center, or at least the building that it’s situated in, before: last summer when two guys scaled the outside New York Times building, it was all over the news. Well, the Times Center is on the ground floor. I half expected Philippe Petit — the daredevil, high wire walker from Man on Wire — to try to scale up the building too, but thankfully he stayed inside the theater.
In fact, the theater was full for the ceremony, the second annual installment of an award that began last year. With straightforward eligibility guidelines and a transparent nominating process, 24 films were nominated for Cinema Eye across all categories, and 5 short films were honored as well. I presented the honored shorts (with kudos to Karen Cirillo for heading up that effort) after taking a stroll across the stage as the queen of the Cinema Eye(with blogger and award co-founder AJ Schnack as my king) for the evening.
You can find a complete breakdown of the films that took home the very sharp statues on the Cinema Eye website. Special congratulations to POV filmmaker Yung Chang, whose film Up the Yangtze, which aired on POV last summer, garnered two awards: Outstanding Debut Feature and the Audience Award.
It was great to see Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath, both looking radiant after completing their 23 year epic, The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), which airs later this summer on POV Christopher Bell, director of Bigger, Strong, Faster, was in attendance, as was Morgan Spurlock, director of Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden. David Polansky was up and down the aisles all night, collecting awards for Ari Folman‘s animated doc Waltz with Bashir. “I am not Ari Folman,” he quipped. “I just did the drawings.” Just the drawings, he says!
Sunday night wasn’t about winners and losers. It wasn’t about me dressing up as a Mardi Gras Queen (a once in a lifetime treat for those in the audience). Yes, some films took home the honors and others did not, but no one lost Sunday night. Up the Yangzte versus Encounters at the End of the World? My Winnepeg versus The Order of Myths? Like all good work, these films are in conversation, rather than competition, with each other. Waltz with Bashir and The Betrayal both plumb the depths of memory; Yangzte and Encounters explore both the force of nature and the forces of man; home, family and identity are the threads connecting Guy Maddin in My Winnepeg and Margaret Brown in The Order of Myths. This is only a smattering of comparisons and doesn’t even include the films who weren’t eligible for nominations. My point is this: Documentary films aren’t made in a vacuum, nor are they made for the echo chamber. They are made for the conversations: the dialogue they invoke, and the questions they ask of us and the men and women who make them. Cheers to everyone who labored so intensely last year to bring their films to the public. Here’s to more of the same in 2009.