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HOT DOCS 2021 Hot Docs Forum / Awards

The Hot Docs Forum awards go to projects from Canada, the USA and the UK


- Three projects in the first look programme received a total of CAD 110,000, and an additional CAD 12,000 went to two projects in the Canadian Forum Pitch

The Hot Docs Forum awards go to projects from Canada, the USA and the UK
The pitch for the UK production Mother Vera by Cécile Embleton and Alys Tomlinson

The Hot Docs Forum, the backbone of Canadian festival Hot Docs’ industry programme, announced its awards on Monday afternoon. With an array of prizes funded by participants in the Hot Docs first look programme, an initiative that provides philanthropic supporters and investors in documentary film with curated, behind-the-scenes access to the Hot Docs Forum and market, with a top up from Hot Docs, the winning projects were selected by the participants after they had viewed all of the pitches.

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The first prize of CAD 50,000 (€34,000) went to Light of the Setting Sun, a deeply personal documentary by Taiwanese-American director-producer Vicky Du (best known internationally as an associate producer on Free Solo), in which she confronts her family’s silence around the cycles of violence that have persisted since the Chinese Communist Revolution of 1949. Du co-produces through her company Setting Sun Productions, along with Walking Productions' Danielle Varga (Kirsten Johnson's Cameraperson). The film is expected to be ready by December 2022.

The second prize, worth CAD 35,000 (€24,000), was given to Mother Vera, the feature-length directorial debut by UK filmmakers Cécile Embleton and Alys Tomlinson. It is a black-and-white documentary about a strikingly unusual Orthodox nun and the community around a hidden monastery in Belarus. Laura Shacham is producing for London-based She Makes Productions Ltd, and the film is expected to be finished by November 2021.

The third prize of CAD 25,000 (€17,000) went to the Canadian-US co-production Fire of Love by Shane Boris (The Edge of Democracy) and Sara Dosa (The Seer and the Unseen [+see also:
interview: Sara Dosa
film profile
), an unexpected love story between two intrepid scientists who die in a volcanic explosion. Boris and Dosa are producing along with Ina Fichman, and the picture should be ready in April 2022.

The newly established Sunny Side of the Doc Pitch Prize, providing a complimentary pass to the French event, was handed to Made in Ethiopia, the first feature-length documentary directed and co-produced by Max Duncan and Xinyan Yu, along with Tamara Dawit, of Toronto-based Gobez Media. The film tells the story of three trailblazing women who navigate the bumpy expansion of the biggest Chinese industrial park in Ethiopia, and should be finished by May 2022.

This project also won a CAD 2,000 (€1,360) Honourable Mention in the Canadian Forum Pitch section, which saw Wilfred Buck by Lisa Jackson pick up the top prize, worth CAD 10,000 (€6,800). It follows a man who’s been called the Indiana Jones of indigenous star knowledge, weaving together his harrowing past and present to explore colonisation’s impact on indigenous ways of knowing, and is being produced by Jackson and Alicia Smith for Door Number 3 Productions, in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada. It is expected to be completed by August 2022.

This year’s Hot Docs Forum saw a total of 20 projects representing 16 countries get pitched to a virtual round-table of more than 50 key funders and decision makers, as well as filmmakers and prize juries. More than 850 curated Hot Docs Deal Maker pitch meetings for the 20 Forum projects and 36 additional selected projects and more than 790 curated Distribution Rendezvous pitch meetings for 124 projects were arranged, with the meetings scheduled to continue throughout the month.

Here is the full list of Hot Docs Forum award winners:

first look programme

First Prize
Light of the Setting Sun - Vicky Du (USA)
Producers: Vicky Du (Setting Sun Productions, LLC), Danielle Varga (Walking Productions)

Second Prize
Mother Vera - Cécile Embleton, Alys Tomlinson (UK)
Producer: Laura Shacham (She Makes Productions Ltd)

Third Prize
Fire of Love - Shane Boris, Sara Dosa (Canada/USA)
Producers: Shane Boris, Sara Dosa, Ina Fichman (Fire of Love Productions Inc)

Sunny Side of the Doc Pitch Prize
Made in Ethiopia - Max Duncan, Xinyan Yu (USA/Canada)
Producers: Max Duncan, Xinyan Yu (Made in Ethiopia, LLC), Tamara Dawit (Gobez Media)

Canadian Forum Pitch

Canadian Forum Pitch Prize
Wilfred Buck - Lisa Jackson (Canada)
Honourable Mention
Made in Ethiopia - Max Duncan, Xinyan Yu (USA/Canada)

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