2020 DOC NYC: jury awards announced; festival extended for 10 more days

The following is a press release from DOC NYC:

DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, revealed the 2020 award winners for its juried Viewfinders, Metropolis, Shorts, Short List: Features, and Short List: Shorts sections. 
 
The festival also announced that, for the first time ever, DOC NYC will extend its program for an additional 10-day DOC NYC Encore, running through Sunday, November 29. Available online to audiences throughout the United States, the Encore program will present more than 70 features from DOC NYC’s 2020 edition, including select award winners, while also continuing to offer new DOC NYC Live filmmaker conversations, presented on Facebook Live, daily November 20-24. For a lineup of DOC NYC Live events and a list of Encore films, see www.docnyc.net. Ticket and pass information is below.
 
For DOC NYC’s competitive sections, three juries selected films from the festival’s Viewfinders, Metropolis, and Shorts lineups to recognize for their outstanding achievements in form and content. The Short List: Features program—a selection of nonfiction films that the festival’s programming team considers to be among the year’s strongest contenders for Oscars and other awards—vied for awards in four categories: Directing, Producing, Cinematography, and Editing, with a Directing prize also awarded in the Short List: Shorts section. The Short List awards were voted on by two juries of filmmaker peers.
 
Winners of the 2020 Grand Jury Prize in the Viewfinders, Metropolis, and Shorts competitions will receive a deliverables package provided by Technicolor PostWorks NY, a comprehensive post facility offering data and film workflows, multi-format conform, color grading, sound mixing, and digital cinema.
 
Winners of the 2020 Grand Jury Prize in the Viewfinders and Metropolis competitions will also receive a camera loan package provided by Sony, a leading manufacturer of digital cinema cameras to fit all levels of documentary production.
 
Voting for the festival’s Audience Award continues through November 19; the winner of the award will be announced shortly after voting closes.
 
 
Viewfinders CompetitionThe jury selected from among 11 films in this section, chosen by festival programmers for their distinct directorial visions.

Grand Jury Prize: Landfall, directed/produced by Cecilia Aldarondo and produced by Ines Hofmann Kanna

“Landfall”

Jurors’ statement: “For its piercing yet poetic observational gaze, rigorous control in illuminating complex issues and the logics of disaster capitalism, and collaborative production with local activists, Landfall is the Grand Jury Winner of the Viewfinders Competition. The ambitious scope of this film transcends humanitarian narratives in weaving together present, past, and future visions of solidarity and resistance.”

Special Jury Recognition for Ethics of Care: Through the Night, directed/produced by Loira Limbal and produced by Jameka Autry

Jurors’ statement: “For its exceptional attention to the lived experience of caregivers, intimate narrativization with dignity, and fully inclusive approach to concretely uplifting the stories of its protagonists, Through the Night receives the Special Jury Recognition for its exemplary Ethics of Care.”

Jurors: Simon Kilmurry, Executive Director, International Documentary Association; Jolene Pinder, former Executive Director, Kartemquin Films; Abby Sun, Curator, The DocYard.

Films featured in the Viewfinders section: 40 Years a Prisoner, A La Calle, Enemies of the State, Jacinta, Landfall, The Meaning of Hitler, So Late So Soon, Stateless, Things We Dare Not Do, Through the Night, andThe Viewing Booth.


Metropolis Competition: The jury selected from among ten films in this section, which is dedicated to stories about New Yorkers and New York City.

Grand Jury Prize: Five Years North, directed by Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple and produced by Jenna Kelly

“Five Years North” (Photo by Chris Temple)

 

Jurors’ statement: “For its use of a keen empathetic eye to capture individual stories and its ability to blend them to create a multi-dimensional, far-reaching portrait of a pressing issue, we recognize Five Years North with the Grand Jury Prize. The prolonged filming period not only shows the patience and dedication of its filmmakers, but reveals the nuance and complexities of the participants’ lives and stories.” 

Special Jury Recognition for Best Use of Archival Material: Wojnarowicz, directed and produced by Chris McKim and produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato

Jurors’ statement: “For its meticulous use of archival elements to enliven a life and its work, we recognize Wojnarowicz with a special jury recognition. The craft of the film beautifully mirrors the melding of life, art, politics, and the culture of New York City that defined its subject.” 

Jurors: Clayton Davis, Film Awards Editor, Variety; Rachel Rosen, Selection Committee, New York Film Festival; Sky Sitney, Co-Creator/Co-Director, Double Exposure Film Festival/Director, Film and Media Studies Program at Georgetown University

Films featured in the Metropolis section: Blue Code of Silence, Calendar Girl, Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, A Cops and Robbers Story, Dope Is Death, Five Years North, Harlem Rising: A Community Changing the Odds, La Madrina: The Savage Life of Lorine Padilla, Moments Like This Never Last, and Wojnarowicz.


Shorts Competition: All new short films playing at the festival were eligible for the Shorts Grand Jury Prize, with the exception of DOC NYC U showcases and Short List: Shorts selections.

Shorts Grand Jury Prize: Sing Me a Lullaby, directed/produced by Tiffany Hsiung

“Sing Me a Lullabye” (Photo by Jason Lee Wong)

Jurors’ statement: “For its ability to evoke an emotional depth that takes you on an intimate journey that is both poignant and packs a punch, we give the Shorts Grand Jury Prize to Sing Me a Lullaby. In a brisk half hour, director Tiffany Hsiung navigates several complex lifetimes, honoring the relationships of mothers, daughters, and family.”

Special Jury Recognition for Cinematography: The Seeker, directed by Lance Edmands and produced by Kyle Martin and Sarah Tihany

Jurors’ statement: “For beautifully capturing its richly textured landscapes, transporting us to a seldom-seen experience, and propelling the storytelling in an impactful way, we present the Special Jury Recognition for Cinematography to The Seeker.”

The 2020 winning Short film qualifies for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the Annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run (provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules).

Jurors: Jackie Glover, Head of Documentary, ABC News; Liliana Rodriguez, Artistic Director, Palm Springs International Film Society; Angela Tucker, filmmaker


Short List: Features: DOC NYC’s Short List for Features puts the spotlight on 15 documentaries representing the best of the year. 


Directing Award: Timedirected by Garrett Bradley

“Time” (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)

Jurors’ statement: “The jurors were moved by this stunning, longitudinal portrait of a family through time. Bradley’s direction and lens infuses this film with dignity, art, intimacy, memory, and meaning. Documentary filmmaking at its best!”

Producing Award: Welcome to Chechnya, produced by Alice Henty, Joy A. Tomchin, Askold Kurov, and David France

“Welcome to Chechnya” (Photo courtesy of HBO)

Jurors’ statement: “The jury is proud to acknowledge the delicate touch, human care and creative gymnastics necessary to produce this powerful film. The filmmakers gained access to this dangerous world in which the film’s subjects took great risks, and then used innovative technology to protect them, allowing these men and women to share their heartbreaking stories and inspirational acts of bravery with the world. Hats off.”

Editing Award: Boys State, edited by Jeff Gilbert

“Boys State” (Photo courtesy of Apple TV+)

Jurors’ statement: “The jury recognizes Jeff Gilbert for delivering an expertly crafted story that is both infused with great momentum and intimacy. Jeff has masterfully shaped an engaging and well-paced film that sneaks up on the audience and reveals a metaphor for the world of American politics on the big stage.” 

Cinematography Award: 76 Days, cinematography by Weixi Chen and Anonymous

“76 Days” (Photo courtesy of MTV Documentary Films)

Jurors’ statement: “The jurors wish to shine a light on Anonymous and Weixi Chen for risking their lives to make this film in the early days of the pandemic in Wuhan, China. In harrowing circumstances, these two brave and determined individuals achieve beautifully executed verite footage and moving compositions, bringing this hospital and its unforgettable staff into stark relief.” 

Special Jury Recognition for Truth to Power: Collective, directed/produced by Alexander Nanau and produced by Bianca Oana, Bernard Michaux, and Hanka Kastelicová

“Collective” (Photo by Alexander Nanau Production/Magnolia Pictures)

Jurors’ statement: “Kudos to the vision and tenacity of the film team that was able to elegantly realize this powerful portrait of a newspaper as it exposes a corrupt healthcare system and the influence of politics on the lives of Romanians. We deeply admire the formidable structure, attention to detail, remarkable access, and the fearlessness and determination of the filmmakers and their protagonists toward speaking truth to rotten power.” 

Jurors: Heidi Ewing, filmmaker; Carla Gutierrez, film editor; Beth Levison, filmmaker


Short List: Shorts: DOC NYC’s Short List for Shorts highlights 12 documentary shorts that the festival’s programming team considers the year’s leading awards contenders. 

Directing Award: A Love Song for Latasha, directed by Sophia Nahli Allison

“A Love Song for Latasha” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Jurors’ statement: “Director Sophia Nahli Allison implements a remarkable marriage of distinct vision and personal narrative. The jury is deeply moved by the bold and imaginative employment of elements to make visible to the world what so many forces have connived to make disappear. The place of one young woman in her community, her family, her friends – to make a personal story emotionally rich, relatable, and resonant for all audiences. Sophia Nahli Allison showed a director’s determination to use every element to bring her vision, her passion, and her community to the screen.”

Special Jury Recognition for Courage under Fire: Do Not Split, directed/produced by Andres Hammer and produced by Charlotte Cook

Jurors’ statement: “The jury could not ignore the tremendous tenacity and courage it took to turn such perilous events into a greater political narrative. We recognize the courage to capture the chaos as great events unfold in the individual and collective acts of resistance. We give this award for both the courage in production and the bravery of its final form and applaud the success of this endeavor.”

Jurors: Carol Dysinger, filmmaker; Chiemi Karasawa, filmmaker; Bernardo Ruiz, filmmaker


Ticket and pass information:
An Encore All Access Pass, offering access to all films screening on the festival platform November 20-29, is available for $99.

Individual tickets are $12 each ($9 for IFC Center members).

Five-Ticket Packs are​ ​$45​, offering film lovers access to five festival selections. 

Ten-Ticket Packs​ ​are​ ​$80​, and provide access to ten festival films.

Tickets and passes can be purchased at www.docnyc.net


Sponsors

DOC NYC is made possible by:

Major Sponsors: A&E; Apple Original Films; Netflix, WarnerMedia

Leading Media Partners: New York Magazine; The WNET Group

Supporting Sponsors: National Geographic Documentary Films; SHOWTIME® Documentary Films

Signature Sponsors: Bloomberg Philanthropies; NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment; Participant; Technicolor PostWorks NY; Topic Studios

Signature Media Partners:The New Republic; WNYC

Event Sponsors: Consulate General of Canada in New York; Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLP; 30 for 30; Fox Rothschild LLP; Hulu; Impact Partners; JustFilms | Ford Foundation; MTV Documentary Films; Reavis Page Jump LLP; Shutterstock Editorial; Sony; SVA’s MFA Social Documentary Film; Wheelhouse Creative; XTR

Friend of the Festival: CineSend

DOC NYC is produced and presented by IFC Center, a division of AMC Networks.

Complete DOC NYC program information can be found at: www.docnyc.net

Review: ‘Welcome to Chechnya,’ starring Maxim Lapunov, David Isteev and Olga Baranova

July 1, 2020

by Carla Hay

“Bogdan” and Maxim Lapunov (also known as “Grisha”) in “Welcome to Chechnya” (Photo courtesy of HBO)

“Welcome To Chechnya”

Directed by David France

Russian with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Russia and other parts of Europe, the documentary “Welcome to Chechnya” interviews white and Arabic middle-class people about the deadly persecution of LGBTQ people in the Russian republic of Chechnya, and the documentary follows a group of activists who smuggle LGBTQ people in Chechnya to safe locations.

Culture Clash: The documentary reports that several LGBTQ people in Chechnya have been tortured or killed because of their sexual orientation, while Chechnya officials ignore these hate crimes or try to silence witnesses.

Culture Audience: “Welcome to Chechnya” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in compelling documentaries about human rights.

A scene from “Welcome to Chechnya” (Photo courtesy of HBO)

It’s not a secret that there are many countries and communities in the world that openly endorse or enable the persecution and murders of LGBTQ people. These crimes and human-rights violations are usually committed under the guise of religious beliefs. The documentary “Welcome to Chechnya” takes a harrowing, up-close look at Russian LGBTQ people (and some of their family members) who have suffered from hate crimes in the Russian republic of Chechnya and are trying to escape. The film also focuses on leaders of a group of activists who provide shelter and relocation services for LGBTQ people who want to leave Chechnya and start new lives in countries that outlaw discrimination against LGBTQ people.

For people who don’t know anything about Chechnya, the documentary gives a brief overview. Chechnya, which has about 1.4 million residents (many of whom are Muslim), is a republic that was formed in 1993, and is part of Russia, but operates independently from Russia in many ways. Ramzan Kadyrov, the current prime minister of the Chechnya, was appointed to the position in 2006. He is the son of former Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated in 2004.

Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, has openly expressed contempt for LGBTQ people and believes that the Chechen government shouldn’t interfere if families want to kill LGBTQ family members for religious reasons or to protect the family’s “honor.” The documentary includes footage from a TV interview where Kadyrov (who projects an overly macho, swaggering image) denies that LGBTQ torture prisons exist in Chechnya. In the interview, he also denies that LGBTQ people even exist in Chechnya, but at the same time he says that if LGBTQ people are in Chechnya, then they should be sent away.

“Welcome to Chechnya” director David France (who is American) has experience doing documentaries about how discrimination against LGBTQ people can literally be life-threatening. In his Oscar-nominated 2012 documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” he examined how homophobia caused the AIDS crisis to be mishandled for years by the U.S. federal government. In his 2017 Netflix documentary “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson,” he chronicled what happened to LGBTQ activist Marsha P. Johnson, a New York City transgender woman whose death in 1992 at the age of 46 was officially ruled an accident, but many people suspect that Johnson’s death was really a hate-crime homicide.

“Welcome to Chechnya” is not the type of investigative documentary that most American viewers are used to seeing about human-rights issues. Most American filmmakers who do investigative documentaries about human-rights violations have dramatic “justice must prevail” type of music throughout the story, while there’s at least one “larger than life” personality (usually someone who’s the chief investigator, an activist or an attorney) who’s presented as the “star” of the film.

Instead, “Welcome to Chechnya” shows how Russian culture is very different from American culture, because there are no over-the-top, outraged histrionics in this movie. Emotions are very suppressed in “Welcome to Chechnya,” compared to how many Americans would act if this documentary had been made about Americans. Everyone in the movie is an “ordinary citizen,” and there’s no “larger than life” hero who’s coming to their rescue.

“Welcome to Chechnya” wisely chose to focus on only a handful of people in presenting their stories for this documentary, in order to make the film easy to follow. Two LGBTQ activists are featured in the film: David Isteev, a former journalist, is a crisis response coordinator for the Russian LGBT Network. Olga Baranova, a former advertising employee, is director of the Moscow Community Center for LGBT Initiatives.

Isteev and Baranova are both heavily involved in helping LBGTQ people in Russia get visas to move to countries where there are laws against discriminating against LGBTQ people. Both of these activists experience exhaustion and burnout because of their work. By the end of the film, one of them will quit, while the other one continues.

The hate-crime survivors who are featured in “Welcome to Chechnya” all have aliases to protect their identities, although they fully appear on camera without any disguises. One of the survivors initially goes by the alias “Grisha,” but he later goes public with his real name—Maxim Lapunov—for reasons that are explained in the film.

Lapunov, who was 30 when this documentary was filmed, never lived in Chechnya, but he visited there because of his job as an event planner. He says he was kidnapped and put in a secret prison in Chechnya, where he and other LGBTQ people were tortured just because of their sexual orientation. Lapunov was eventually released, he sought shelter in a house in Moscow for survivors of LGBTQ hate crimes, and he made plans to move out of Russia. He says that before this horrific turn of events, he had always thought that Chechnya was a great place full of friendly people.

“When the gay persecution began, it was a huge shock for me,” Lapunov comments in the film. “Being abducted and tortured changes you. That period of time broke me hard.” It’s mentioned in the documentary that the secret imprisonment and torture of LGBTQ people in Chechnya is believed to have increased sometime in 2017.

During a drug raid in 2017, police found explicitly gay messages on the phone of one of the men arrested. He was tortured and forced to identify other LGBTQ people in Chechnya. This raid is believed to have set off a firestorm of persecution attacks and abductions of LGBTQ people in Chechnya and other parts of Russia.

The documentary includes disturbing undercover video of some of these attacks. “Welcome to Chechnya” also mentions openly gay Russian pop singer Zelim Bakaev, who disappeared in Chechnya in 2017. Bakaev is believed to have been abducted and killed because of his sexual orientation.

During the course of the film, Lapunov is reunited with his boyfriend, who goes by the alias “Bogdan” and who was 29 when this movie was filmed. At the time Lapunov and “Bogdan” reunited, they had been in a romantic relationship for about 10 years. “Bogdan” left his family behind to move with Lapunov to a country that can give them asylum. Because Lapunov’s immediate family members accept his sexual orientation and because he is a key witness to the Chechen prison torture of LGBTQ people, his family members are also in danger of persecution, so they all plan to make the same relocation.

Another hate-crime survivor featured in the documentary is “Anya,” a 21-year-old Muslim whose uncle threatens to tell her family that she’s a lesbian. In exchange for his silence, he demands that she have sex with him. “Anya’s” father is a powerful government official, and “Anya” is certain that her father will have her killed if he finds out that she’s a lesbian. The documentary shows how the LGBTQ activist group helped “Anya” escape to an undisclosed location, but there are unexpected problems that occur with this rescue mission.

“Akhmad” is a 30-year-old hate-crime survivor who relocates to Canada. Out of all the survivors featured in the documentary, he gets the least amount of screen time, because the film shows him toward the end of his shelter stay and how he eventually leaves the shelter to move to Canada. It’s mentioned in the documentary that each shelter resident can stay for a maximum of 14 or 15 days. Although the Russian LGBTQ activists get help from LGBTQ activist groups in many other countries, not having enough money is a constant challenge in being able to continue the work.

Isteev is very clear about what’s at stake for LGBTQ people in Russia: “Being gay, lesbian and transgender in Russia can get you killed or maimed. And no one will be held accountable for it.” Although it’s not explicitly stated in the movie, Isteev and Baranova being filmed for this documentary with their real names can put their lives in danger.

Isteev’s personal life is not shown at all in the film, but Baranova is filmed with her son Filip (who looks to be about 5 or 6 years old when this movie was filmed) and some of her LGBTQ friends. Baranova says that she wants Filip to know that there are other LGBTQ families like theirs, so he won’t grow up with the same feelings that other people have that LGBTQ people are “abnormal” and should be hidden away in shame.

Because most of the documentary is in the Russian language (with translated subtitles) and because the people in “Welcome to Chechyna” speak in calm, measured tones, some viewers might think the movie is “boring,” compared to other movies that would cover the topic of LGBTQ persecution. But if you have the patience and interest in looking at the movie for what it really is, there’s a quiet desperation that people have in this documentary that is no less impactful than Americans who loudly shout about their own rights and are ready to file complaints if they feel their rights have been violated.

“Welcome to Chechyna” accurately shows the repressed social behavior in a culture that’s ruled by a government that doesn’t allow street protests, legal recourse or freedom of speech for certain issues in the same way that other countries do. The only real moment of emotional hysteria in the documentary comes when one of the male residents of the LGBTQ shelter attempts suicide by cutting his wrist with a razor blade, and the panicked residents react to this suicide attempt in various ways. The shelter leaders make the agonizing decision not to get professional medical help because it would expose the location of the shelter.

Even though the emotions in “Welcome to Chechnya” are more muted than if this movie had been made about Americans or other Europeans, that doesn’t mean that the Russian people in this documentary are less passionate about fighting for their rights. They face more uphill battles than they would in many other countries.

And the documentary shows how much survivors have to sacrifice if they take the chance of starting new lives in other countries: They almost always have to leave their families and other loved ones behind. And they usually have to cut off contact with their families and other loved ones permanently, since the families left behind in Russia will be under government surveillance to track down the LGBTQ families members who escaped.

“Welcome to Chechnya” is nothing short of sounding the alarm that there is a modern-day holocaust of LGBTQ people. Baranova puts it bluntly when she says: “A group of people is identified without charge or trial. [Ramzan] Kadyrov and his people openly say that they are cleansing the republic.”

HBO premiered “Welcome to Chechnya” on June 30, 2020.