‘Hale County This Morning, This Evening’ Wins Top Award at the Cinema Eye Honors

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

RaMell Ross’ “Hale County This Morning, This Evening” has been named the best nonfiction film of 2018 at the 12th annual Cinema Eye Honors, which were presented on Thursday evening in New York City.

The film, an examination of a small town in the deep South that also delves into how African Americans are depicted in the media, won in the Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking category over a slate of nominees that also included the Oscar-shortlisted documentaries “Minding the Gap,” “Of Fathers and Sons,” “Three Identical Strangers” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” as well as “Bisbee ’17,” which did not make the Oscar short list.

The Audience Award, the only Cinema Eye category voted on by the public, went to “Free Solo.”

The Spotlight Award, designed to single out a film that has not yet received the attention it deserves, went to Simon Lereng Wilmont’s “The Distant Barking of Dogs,” set in a small Ukraine village near the front line in that country’s ongoing war. The Heterodox Award, which salutes a film that mixes fiction and nonfiction techniques, went to Bart Layton’s “American Animals.”

Also Read: ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor,’ ‘Free Solo’ Lead Oscar Documentary Shortlist

Bing Liu won the directing award for “Minding the Gap,” which also won the Outstanding Debut Feature award and the prize for editing.

“Free Solo” won the awards for production and cinematography and “Shirkers” won for music and for graphic design or animation.

Awards for broadcast film and series went to “Baltimore Rising” and “America to Me,” respectively.

Also Read: ‘Minding the Gap’ Wins Top Honor at IDA Documentary Awards

Charlie Tyrell’s “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes,” one of the finalists in TheWrap’s 2018 ShortList Film Festival and the only one of the nominees to also make the Oscar short-doc short list, won the award as the year’s best short film.

The Cinema Eye Honors were founded in 2007 to celebrate all aspects of nonfiction filmmaking. Winners are chosen by 200 to 300 filmmakers, past Cinema Eye participants and distributors, programmers, sales agents, publicists, writers and others who specialize in nonfiction film.

In the first 11 years of the Cinema Eye Honors, the winner went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature three times, and to be nominated for that award nine times.

In December, the International Documentary Association’s IDA Documentary Awards gave its top prize to “Minding the Gap.”

Also Read: ‘Minding the Gap’ Film Review: Powerful Doc Depicts Skateboarders In Transition to Adulthood

Documentary filmmaker Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” “The Interrupters”) hosted the the Cinema Eye Honors ceremony, which took place at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens.

The 2019 Cinema Eye Honors winners:

Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking: “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” directed by RaMell Ross, produced by Joslyn Barnes, Su Kim and RaMell Ross
Outstanding Achievement in Direction: Bing Liu, “Minding the Gap
Outstanding Achievement in Production: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes and Shannon Dill, “Free Solo”
Outstanding Achievement in Editing: Joshua Altman and Bing Liu, “Minding the Gap”
Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography: Jimmy Chin, Clair Popkin and Mikey Schaffer, “Free Solo”
Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Score: Ishai Adar, “Shirkers”
Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design or Animation: Lucas Cellar and Sandi Tan, “Shirkers”
Outstanding Achievement in a Debut Feature Film: “Minding the Gap,” directed by Bing Liu
Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Film for Broadcast: “Baltimore Rising,” Sonja Sohn
Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Series for Broadcast: “America to Me,” Steve James
Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Filmmaking: “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes,” directed by Charlie Tyrell
Spotlight Award: “The Distant Barking of Dogs,” directed by Simon Lereng Wilmont
Audience Choice Prize: “Free Solo,” directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
Heterodox Award: “American Animals,” directed by Bart Layton
Legacy Award: “Eyes on the Prize”

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Documentaries managed to find an even broader audience this year, with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu doubling down on non-fiction, both as producers and distributors of new unscripted films and TV shows. But whether they screened in theaters…

‘Shirkers’ Film Review: Search for a Lost Film Leads to Awkward, Illuminating Truths

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Sandi Tan’s documentary “Shirkers” — about a mysterious feature film also named “Shirkers” that Tan made as a 19-year-old student — unravels like a whodunit.

This is a documentary about the making of a film that disappeared, pilfered away by one of Tan’s now-deceased teachers, Georges Cardona. The only evidence of its existence was in the minds of the makers and those Singaporeans who held out hope that this storied movie, which would have been the country’s first indie feature, would one day find release.

We do, of course, find that the missing footage has been salvaged; a large portion of this film is comprised of scenes from the original footage played under music and Tan’s voiceover. But it’s the story of how the footage is found, and how Tan and her friends see the film and their old teacher now, that is boundlessly interesting.

Also Read: Sundance Award-Winning Doc ‘Shirkers’ Lands at Netflix

Tan entices us from the opening frames with vibrant images of a pre-boom Singapore, where she was born and raised, and where she and her friend Jasmine Ng began a fervent collaboration of art, music and film with all the unearned confidence of punk-rock kids.

Suddenly, it becomes apparent that this is actually the original “Shirkers” that we’re watching. Though Tan herself only appears briefly in the film in the present day, she’s in nearly every frame of this mesmerizing footage, playing the role of capricious murderer S.

Ng jokes of Tan writing herself into the lead role. “Oh, I wonder what S stood for,” she says, hinting at their barbed relationship. Scenes of the original “Shirkers” play out like a fever dream with nonsensical action, like a woman dressed as a nurse dancing with a dog on a rooftop, popping up out of nowhere. It’s like “Ghost World” meets “Hausu,” with a lot of walking, thinking and talking (that we can’t hear) as well as popping colors and inventive special effects, the kind of narrative dreamed up by kids unshackled from the need to make sense.

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Much of the rest of the film is a combination of present-day interviews with the people who helped make the original film, which is almost always followed by Tan’s own commentary on those interviews, as she wades through her own deeply submerged memories. Most of these stories tend to return to their enigmatic teacher Georges.

At first, I found it frustrating and then fascinating that Tan felt compelled to devote so much of her personal film to the male teacher who both assisted and sabotaged her creative life. Georges, for sure, is a puzzle. In voice recordings, his accent is unplaceable. Pictures capture a vague ethnicity. He’s a kind of Machiavellian figure who seemingly emerges from nowhere to egg on these kids’ creative urges.

Tan collects bits and pieces of what Georges had told others when they were kids and finds that each person contains a bit of knowledge that is a slightly warped version of what the others have; Georges’ insecurities ran so deeply that his life was an avalanche of lies.

One of the stranger sections of Tan’s relationship with Georges comes when he invites her on a road trip across the U.S. Tan is still a teenager at the time, and Georges, well, who knows how old he was. Tan took him up on the invitation and spent her time soaking up his tall tales, the most salient being that the James Spader character in Steven Soderbergh’s “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” was based on him. (Later, we will come to understand that that is a lie.)

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Tan accepts these stories as fact, impressionable as she is and searching out validation. It comes as no surprise that on this trip Georges apparently asked Tan to “touch his belly,” and she refused and pretended it didn’t happen. Who wouldn’t see the possibility of Georges trying to take advantage of this young girl? But what makes this story different is Tan and her reaction, which is simply… curiosity. Yet this is also Tan’s interpretation of the memory now, and the longer the film goes on, the more we understand that perhaps all of Tan’s memories are flawed.

What we — and Tan — come to find is that how the director describes or sees herself in the past doesn’t always match up to her collaborators’ opinions of the time; this is also a story about the stories we tell ourselves. Though Tan’s voiceover explaining the origin of “Shirkers” seems direct at first, underneath this measured statement lies a coyness, a sense that perhaps the audience will never receive the full story because of Tan’s own inability to face her past.

At one point, Ng becomes frustrated because she can’t get Tan to see the story outside of herself. She tells Tan: “You’re an a–hole.” And then the film adds yet another layer, its tendrils stretching into an exploration of self-projection. “Am I an a–hole?” Tan wonders aloud.

The significance of that question and statement didn’t hit me at first. The entire idea of a director trying to discover if she is or was an a–hole didn’t completely interest me until the cumulative subtext and unanswered questions of her film hit me. Was she an a–hole like Georges was an a–hole? Was she just as guilty of rewriting her own narrative as Georges was?

Like another breakout independent film this year, “The Tale,” Tan’s documentary attempts to portray her own narrative with objectivity and distance, but she discovers along the way that such a thing may not be possible, that memories will wait years or decades to snag you in their truths.

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Sheffield Doc/Fest Kicks Off With ‘The Insufferable Goo’ & Maya Rudolph-Produced ‘Shirkers’

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The Sheffield Doc/Fest, one of the largest non-fiction festivals in the world, kicked off this weekend with around 200 films as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. The festival is launching the world premiere of films such as Jack Black-associated The …

Film Review: ‘Shirkers’

Read on: Variety.

There’s an alternate universe where Sandi Tan, a movie-crazy teenager from Singapore, burst onto the scene with her two young collaborators in 1992, forging an independent film movement in a country where none had existed. That dream ended when the mysterious director they were working with absconded with 70 16mm film canisters, which only recently surfaced […]

Netflix Acquires Sandi Tan’s Sundance Award Winner ‘Shirkers’

Read on: Deadline.

Netflix has acquired worldwide rights to Shirkers, Sandi Tan’s film that won the Directing Award in World Cinema Documentary after its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
Netflix announced the buy today, along with the acquisition of Zion, a ten-minute film directed by Floyd Russ about a young wrestler born without legs.
Shirkers will next be shown at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri on Friday. The film tells of Tan’s 1992 cult classic Shir…

Sundance Award-Winning Doc ‘Shirkers’ Lands at Netflix

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Netflix announced Wednesday that it has acquired worldwide rights to Sandi Tan’s documentary feature “Shirkers,” which won the Directing Award in World Cinema Documentary following its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. The film screened to great acclaim and will next be shown at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri, on March 2.

An inspired labor of love for zine-making teens Sandi Tan, Jasmine Ng and Sophie Siddique, “Shirkers” was a Singapore-made 1992 cult classic — or it would have been, had the 16mm footage not been stolen by their enigmatic American collaborator Georges Cardona, who disappeared.

More than two decades later, Tan, now a novelist in L.A., returns to the country of her youth and to the memories of a man who both enabled and thwarted her dreams. Magically, too, she returns to the film itself, revived in a way she never could have imagined.

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Netflix also announced Wednesday that it has acquired “Zion,” a 10-minute film directed by Floyd Russ about a young wrestler who was born without legs and finds acceptance and community within the world of wrestling.

Clark, who grew up in foster care, began wrestling in second grade against his able-bodied peers. The physical challenge became a therapeutic outlet and gave him a sense of family. Moving from foster home to foster home, wrestling became the only constant thing in his childhood.

Josh Braun of Submarine negotiated the “Shirkers” deal on behalf of the filmmakers.

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