The 2008 Cinema Eye Honors: Busby Berkeley Would Be Proud!

My apologies for my lack in posting, of late. Been sick (more on that in a subsequent post…I know you’re all waiting with baited breath) and got a new gig (ditto). Anyway, I am leaping (temporarily) over SXSW (I’ll be back there, I promise) to write a little something about the triumph that was the first annual Cinema Eye Honors.
Held at Manhattan’s IFC Center, the evening was a triumph for all involved and came off with nary a hitch. Cinema Eye Honors co-chairs Thom Powers and AJ Schnack were consummate hosts and the show was well produced by Pamela Cohn. Coming in at just under two hours, the program even included a short panel discussion moderated by Powers with directors Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side), Esther B. Robinson (A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory), Manda Bala (Send a Bullet‘s Jason Kohn and Pernille Rose Grønkjær (The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun).
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There was one odd and profoundly disturbing facet to the evening, one noted by several of us in attendance. Wither the distributors? With the exception of IFC’s Lizzie Nastro, no one remembers seeing anyone from any nominated distributor, including ThinkFilm (12 nominations), Zeitgeist (9 nods) or Magnolia (5). That’s appalling behavior IMHO and just more fuel for the “distributors don’t care about docs” argument. All of those companies are based in New York and how hard would it have been to send a rep or two to the IFC Center to partake in the celebration on this important night? If this isn’t accurate (there were a lot of people there and it’s possible we missed someone) please let me know and I’ll correct the record. Apparently reps for Zeitgeist were in the house. My bad.
Kohn’s excellent film was the big winner on the night, picking up three awards, including Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Filmmaking, as well as awards for its editing and cinematography. For a complete winners wrap up, check out indieWIRE’s piece on the evening.
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Kohn also had many of the best quotes of the night, including screeds on good docs being over looked and making his film “out of anger.” When he was at the Sao Paulo International Documentary Film Festival he saw Marshall Curry’s Street Fight screen to a near empty house while patrons were viewing….inferior product, elsewhere and it pissed him off.
He also pointed out that the Honors themselves were themselves born out of anger and he was right. I know, I was there. Over the course of a car ride at last November’s Denver Film Festival, as AJ read the list of exceptional nonfiction films that had been excluded from the Academy’s documentary short list, the level of disbelief and furor in the car rose. Well, AJ decided to do something about that and like a Busby Berkeley movie, 4 short months later, there we all were, gathered in a theater toasting the excellence in nonfiction filmmaking for 2007.
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Kick ass, AJ!

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