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Best of Fest – Docs: Citizenfour Wins Over Critics, While Dubai, Torino and EntreVues Wrap by Handing Out Awards (December 2014)

Academy Awards
On December 2, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that they’d whittled down the 134 eligible documentary submissions to a 15 film shortlist. The chosen films include:

Art and Craft – Purple Parrot Films
The Case Against 8 – Day in Court
Citizen Koch – Elsewhere Films
Citizenfour – Praxis Films
Finding Vivian Maier – Ravine Pictures
The Internet’s Own Boy – Luminant Media
Jodorowsky’s Dune – City Film
Keep on Keepin’ On – Absolute Clay Productions
The Kill Team – f/8 filmworks
Last Days in Vietnam – Moxie Firecracker Films
Life Itself – Kartemquin Films and Film Rites
The Overnighters – Mile End Films West
The Salt of the Earth – Decia Films
Tales of the Grim Sleeper – Lafayette Film
Virunga – Grain Media

EntreVues Belfort International Film Festival – France – November 22nd – November 30th
The 29th edition of the Entrevues Belfort International Film Festival jury members announced the 2014 Awards, giving Anna Roussillon’s Je suis le peuple, on how the lives of poor Egyptian villagers in the country’s south have changed very little despite political sea-change (see still above), both the Grand Prix Janine Bazin Prize for Best Feature Film, as well as the Audience Feature Film Award. Bla Cinima by Lamine Ammar-Khodja, which sees the filmmaker sparking spontaneous conversations with passersby about cinema, also received a Special Mention of the Jury, while A Tale by Katrin Thomas (see trailer below) won the Grand Prix Prize for Best Short Film for telling of his surreal encounter on the iconic Pacific Highway #1 in the midst of the 1992 race riots.

British Independent Film Awards
Among the many distinctions doled out at the 2014 BIFAs, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard were given the Douglas Hickox Award for Best Debut Directors for their stylishly crafted Nick Cave bio, 20,000 Days on Earth, while Best Documentary went to Mike Brett and Steve Jamison’s feel good soccer doc Next Goal Wins.

Canadian Doc Institute Inaugural Awards
On December 8th, it was announced that the DOC Star Award would be given to Elizabeth Klinck in recognition for her work as a producer, researcher and clearance specialist on Canadian and international documentaries, including Watermark, Stories We Tell, Our Man in Tehran, and Reel Injun. In tandem, director Brett Story would receive the New Visions Award for having caught the eye of the independent doc community since her debut award-winning feature film, Land of Destiny (2010), as well as her web-doc project HIGHRISE.

Dubai International Film Festival – United Arab Emirates – December 10th – December 17th
As part of the 2014 Muhr Awards for the best films in Arab Cinema, Nujoom Al Ghanem was given the prize for Best Non-Fiction Feature for his film Nearby Sky, about the first Emirati female camel owner to enter her camel in the country’s camel beauty pageant, Salim Abu Jabal took home the Jury Prize for Roshmia, which witnesses a refugee from Yasoor facing eviction from his home, and Yahya Alabdallah received a Special Mention for The Council, which sees student council elections play-out in a Palestinian primary UNRWA school.

Gotham Independent Film Awards
Five documentary films nominated for Best Documentary – Robert Greene’s Actress, Steve James’ Life Itself, Laura Poitras’ Citizenfour, Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez’s Manakamana, and Marshall Curry’s Point and Shoot – but Citizenfour was named the cream of the crop, taking home the prize.

Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards
The 40th annual LAFCA Awards saw Citizenfour by director Laura Poitras heralded as the Best Documentary, while Steve James’ Life Itself was named the runner-up.

New York Film Critics Circle Awards
Riding the rising critical wave, Laura Poitras’ Citizenfour was named Best Non-Fiction Film, the single documentary honored by the NYFCC.

Online Film Critics Society Awards
Revealing their annual awards in early December, the OFCS named Steve James’ Life Itself the best documentary film of the year, beating out the other four nominees, CitizenfourThe Missing PictureNational Gallery, and The Overnighters. The critic collective also recognized Wim Wenders’ The Salt of the Earth (see trailer above) and Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence as being two of the ten best non-US releases of the year.

Sundance Film Festival – United States – January 22nd – February 1st
In preparation for a slew of world premieres and international debuts, the Park City programming team announced nearly 50 non-fiction titles in their 2015 lineup. Big name premieres include musical profiles in Liz Garbus’s What Happened, Miss Simone? and Brett Morgen’s Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, as well as treachery revealing docs in The Hunting Ground by Kirby Dick, Amy Berg’s Prophet’s Prey, and Alex Gibney’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, among others. Sixteen films make up the US Documentary Competition, including Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe’s (T)ERROR, Louie Psihoyos’s Racing Extinction, Bryan Carberry and Clay Tweel’s Finders Keepers, and Bill and Turner Ross’ Western. The International Documentary program sees fifteen films competing, including Hao Zhou’s The Chinese MayorChuck Norris vs Communism by Ilinca Calugareanu and Michael Madsen’s alien-looking The Visit. Sneaking in from peripheral sidebars are Rodney Ascher’s The Nightmare in the Midnight program, Sam Klemke’s Time Machine by Matthew Bate is part of the New Frontiers program, and Andrew Jarecki has made a return to non-fiction with a Special Event screening of the first of six chapters of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.

Torino Film Festival – Italy – November 21st – November 29th
On November 27, the Italiana.doc jurors, Maria Bonsanti, Jacopo Quadri and Marco Santarelli awarded Alessandro Abba Legnazzi’s Rada with the title of Best Film for its “ability to relate and challenge, in a cinematographic space, made of life-stories and characters”, while 24 heures sur place by Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine won the Special Jury Award for being “a film in line with the tradition of cinematography that manages to fully actualize it with due generosity of style and content.” Also, Costanza Quatriglio’s Triangle received the Cipputi Award for Best Film About the Working World, Endless Escape, Eternal Return by Harutyun Khachatryan took home Best Film in the Internazionale.doc program, and Daniel Hui’s Snakeskin won the Special Jury Award in the same program.

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