2011 The Cinema Eye Honors: Gift Shop and Last Train Home Win Big
It was a wonderful night celebrating documentary filmmaking at the fourth annual Cinema Eye Honors, held in the beautifully renovated Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, N.Y. on January 18th. Hosted by filmmakers AJ Schnack (Kurt Cobain About a Son) and Esther Robinson (A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory), the nominees comprised of some of the best documentary films of 2010, truly a celebration of nonfiction filmmaking rather than a competition. David Schwartz, the chief curator of the Museum, relayed the thoughts of many filmgoers who say that “the best films at festivals are the documentaries.”
The night kicked off with musical accompaniment by the Quavers and an excerpt of Utopia in Four Movements, performed by Sam Green. His excerpt was at both funny and poignant, touching upon a mix of history and comedy, segueing between 1960s ideas of the future world to stark photographs of Cambodian prisoners before they were executed by the Khmer Rouge. While that sounds dark, it was more about the power of documenting the real yet uncomfortable pieces of life.
Lixin Fan’s Last Train Home was the major winner of the night, taking home three awards for Production, Cinematography, and International Film, sharing the award with co-producers Mila Aung-Thwin and Daniel Cross. Last Train Home is a remarkable debut about the life of migrant workers in China trying to get an elusive train ticket to visit family during the New Year.
Exit Through the Gift Shop took the top award for Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking, as well as winning for Outstanding Achievement in Editing. Unsurprisingly, director Banksy was not there to accept his award. Schnack joked about the controversy surrounding the film, as to whether it is fictional or truth, alluding to the film before playfully pointing fingers at Laura Poitras’ The Oath, which ended up winning for Outstanding Achievement in Direction. For Outstanding Achievement in Debut Feature, Jeff Malmberg’s Marwencol, about a man who recreates a WWII-era miniature town to cope with a life-changing accident, won the award to much applause.
Other winners included Juan Cardarelli and Alex Tyson for their graphic design and animation in Gasland; Norbert Moslang’s music score for The Sound of Insects – Record of a Mummy; the inaugural Heterodox Award, sponsored by Filmmaker Magazine, which celebrates artists who blur the line between fiction and nonfiction, went to Matt Porterfield for Putty Hill; the Spotlight Award went to Andrei Ujica for The Autobiography of Nicholas Ceausescu; Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Filmmaking went to Vance Malone for The Poodle Trainer; and Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg won the Audience Choice Prize for Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.
The presenters included James Marsh (Man on Wire), Louie Psihoyos (The Cove), actor/filmmaker Harry Shearer, They Might Be Giants musician John Flansburgh, and Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths).
The night held two loving tributes for two filmmakers who passed away this last year. Morgan Spurlock spoke warmly of director George Hickenlooper, who directed Mayor of the Sunset Strip and Hearts of Darkness and was greatly funny and modest about his own talents as a pioneering filmmaker, speaking that he made films for the story, not the money. And editor Karen Schmeer was given a special tribute by her friends, filmmakers Liz Garbus (Bobby Fischer Against the World), Greg Barker (Sergio), and Lucia Small (My Father, the Genius), who truly brought her quiet yet headstrong personality to life onstage, speaking on how she completely immersed herself into editing, would identify so strongly with the subjects that she would adapt their personalities to the film, and yet maintained a lot of friendships by multitasking between emailing friends while editing films.
The Legacy Award was awarded to the Maysles brothers for their decades of excellent documentary filmmaking, especially highlighting Salesman and Grey Gardens. Their work exemplified true honesty and a deep respect for their subjects, celebrating the Beale family as unique and wonderful women in Grey Gardens. Albert Maysles, accompanied by his co-director Muffie Meyer, quoted Alfred Hitchcock in saying “In a non-fiction film, God is the director.” The award was presented to them by Lixin Fan, Jeff Malmberg, and Laura Poitras, all whom were deeply honored and touched to be celebrating these filmmakers.
The Cinema Eye Honors was a wonderful celebration of the best in documentary filmmaking, where the audience felt like they had all contributed, whether as filmmakers, press, or filmgoers. It truly felt like a big family there at the Museum of the Moving Image.