On a rainy evening in Astoria, Queens, a group of documentary luminaries got together to celebrate the 2012 Cinema Eye Honors for Non-fiction Filmmaking. It was, indeed, a star-studded affair. Walking in to the museum’s lobby last night I was immediately blinded by the sheer docu-star power. Filling the lobby for the cocktail hour were such filmmaking icons as Al Maysles, Frederick Wiseman, Michael Moore, Steve James, Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger, the team behind the “Paradise Lost” trilogy.
Shortly afterward, guests filed into the museum’s auditorium for the awards ceremony, the organization’s 5th. AJ Schnack & Esther Robinson Cinema Eye Honors co-chairs and the evening’s co-hosts had a great chemistry; while Schnack’s goofy asides brought many laughs, it was Robinson who brought just the right amount of solemnity to the occasion.
“The Interrupters” filmmaker, Steve James, who presented The Audience Choice prize to the Buck team and who also won for both Outstanding Achievement in Direction and Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking, exclaimed that tonight he didn’t care about the Oscars, referring to the absence of his film “The Interrupters” on the Oscar nominee short-list. A look around the auditorium confirmed his feeling. A generation of amazing story tellers filled the seats including Alma Ha’rel (“Bombay Beach”), Marshall Curry (“If a Tree Falls”), Asif Kapadia (“Senna”), Danfung Dennis (“Hell and Back Again”), Cindy Meehl (“Buck”) and many many more. There is a strong sense of camaraderie among documentary filmmakers.
Other evening highlights included Frederick Wiseman’s accepting the Legacy Award for his first film, “Titicut Follies”, as well as Tim Hetherington’s mother’s touching acceptance speech for her late son film, “Diary” which won Best Short. Another touching moment was when Jason Baldwin, one third of the West Memphis 3, speech and his bringing his heroes filmmakers Berlinger & Sinofsky up to the stage to accept the new Hell Yeah prize. Both Sinofsky and Berlinger were clearly moved. Other noteworthy winners were Clio Barnard Erroll Morris, both in absentia, who won Outstanding Debut for “The Arbor” respectively.