CINEMA EYE HONORS 2009 – Celebrating Documentary Filmmaking

A few weeks back, on a dark and still wintry Sunday night, the second annual CINEMA EYE HONORS awards ceremony was hosted at the elegant and stylish Times Center in the recently opened New York Times Building. A good number of NY’s who’s who of independent documentary filmmaking gathered for a fun and fact filled evening celebration of non-fiction filmmaking.

Awards for outstanding achievements in 10 different categories were given out, ranging from the AUDIENCE AWARD, which went to UP THE YANGTZE by Yung Chang, to OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENTS IN INTERNATIONAL FEATURE for Golden Globe winner WALTZ WITH BASHIR by Ari Folman, all the way to the top award of OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN NONFICTION FEATURE FILMMAKING, which was awarded to filmmaker James Marsh and Producer Simon Chinn for MAN ON WIRE (the same team that also won Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Academy Awards).

According to the well designed and documented awards catalog, the selection and voting process was as follows:

In order to be eligible, a documentary had to either be screened at three of eleven top doc festivals around the world, or at least at two of these events while winning an audience award or a Grand Prize. A documentary can also screen at two of the 11 selected festivals and receiv a box office of more than $5,000 (USD). A film would further qualify if it reported a box office of more than $20,000, even if it did not screen at any of the 11 festivals. According to these rules, 117 non-fiction films became eligible this year.  Out of these 117 films, an appointed nominations committee then named their top 5 films in each category by giving their most favorite film 5 points, second best film 4 points and so forth. The audience award nominees were determined by a mixture of box office success and some of the nomination categories. This year’s nomination committee was made up of 15 well known and respected festival directors and programmers from the US and abroad. After the nominations had been determined, a wide pool of documentary film professionals was then asked to vote on the winners.

The clear favorites of this year’s crop were Israeli-French-German co-production WALTZ WITH BASHIRE—garnering 4 awards—followed by MAN ON WIRE with three and UP THE YANGTZE with two.

As co-chairs of the 2009 Cinema Eye Honors, festival programmer Thom Powers and filmmaker AJ Schnack announced at the top of the show that “This event was to celebrate documentary filmmaking.”, and it surely did. The well organized evening had an appropriate non-fiction and real life feel to it, compared to similar, more glitzy and glamorous festivities.It was a pleasure seeing so many of the documentary film community come together to support and celebrate each other’s works as nominees, winners, and presenters—amongst them veteran legends D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus and Albert Maysles, and audience members. The idea to break up the event and host a short, yet in-depth, round table discussion with some of Cinema Eye’s nominees was very well conceived and put the award ceremony within the context of actual filmmaking. Amongst those taking part in this year’s discussion were Academy Award nominees Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath, and winner James Marsh. Congratulations to the organizers and foremost to distributor and production house INDIEPIX and its President Bob Alexander for their support and belief in non-fiction filmmaking.

Following is the complete list for the winners of the 2009 Cinema Eye Honors:
Debut Feature: Up The Yangtze (Yung Chang)
Graphic Design and Animation: Waltz with Bashir (Yoni Goodman & David Polansky)
Music Composition: Waltz with Bashir (Max Richter)
Outstanding Editing: Man on Wire (Jinx Godfrey)
Outstanding Cinematography: Encounter at the End of the World (Peter Zeitlinger)
Audience Choice Award: Up the Yangtze (Yung Chang)
Outstanding Production: Man on Wire (Simon Chinn)
International Feature: Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman)
Outstanding Direction: Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman)
Outstanding Achievement in Non-Fiction Filmmaking: Man on Wire (Dir: James Marsh; Prod: Simon Chinn)

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About Author

Tanja Meding

Tanja Meding :Since moving to New York from Germany in 2003, Tanja Meding has worked as a producer for Maysles Films and other independent production companies. Amongst others, she produced SALLY GROSS-THE PLEASURE OF STILLNESS by Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile which aired on WNET/Thirteen and Channel 25 and is now available on DVD from Since 2007, Tanja has been producing short films by Rosane Chamecki, Andrea Lerner and Phil Harder: JACKIE & JUDY premiered at DANCE ON CAMERA at LINCOLN CENTER was awarded with a PEARL at the POOL 2010 Festival in Berlin. Upcoming this September is a video installation of two new shorts: BOXING and THE COLLECTION at NY's newly opened New York Live Arts building in Chelsea. In addition, Tanja is the co-producer of Gabriella Bier's LOVE DURING WARTIME, a documentary about an Israeli dancer and her Palestinian husband. The film had its US premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and is distributed in the US through 7th Art Releasing. Furthermore, she is the US co-producer of Pascale Obolo's documentary CALYPSO ROSE, LIONESS OF THE JUNGLE. Currently in development with Claudia Brazzale is RETRACING STEPS, a portrait documentary about a group of international dancers and choreographers and their lives 20 years after they first met in NYC.

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