The Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking were founded in late 2007 to recognize and honor exemplary craft and innovation in nonfiction film. Cinema Eye’s mission has been to advocate for, recognize and promote the highest commitment to rigor and artistry in the nonfiction field.
The inaugural Cinema Eye Honors were held at New York City’s IFC Center on March 17, 2008. Jason Kohn’s MANDA BALA (SEND A BULLET) received three awards that evening, including Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking. Alex Gibney followed up his Oscar win for TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE with the Cinema Eye for Outstanding Achievement in Direction. Gibney also served as a presenter at the event, along with filmmakers Barbara Kopple, Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky, Sam Pollard, Alan Berliner and Ross Kauffman.
The second edition of Cinema Eye was held at New York City’s TimesCenter on 41st Street on March 29, 2009. Ari Folman’s WALTZ WITH BASHIR received four honors, including Oustanding Achievement in Direction, and James Marsh’s MAN ON WIRE took three, including Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking. Presenters at the event included Al Maysles, DA Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus, Morgan Spurlock and musician/artist Laurie Anderson.
The third edition of Cinema Eye was held once again at the TimesCenter on January 15, 2010. It marked the first time the Honors were presented prior to the Academy Award ceremonies. Louie Psihoyos’ THE COVE received the top award for Outstanding Feature and Agnes Varda was presented with the Outstanding Directing Award for THE BEACHES OF AGNES. In addition, Cinema Eye presented its first Legacy Award to Ross McElwee for SHERMAN’S MARCH. McElwee also served as a presenter at the event, along with filmmakers Peter Davis, Barbara Kopple, Albert Maysles, Bill Plympton and Ellen Kuras.
The Fourth Annual Cinema Eye Honors were presented on January 18, 2011 at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City and the ceremony was broadcast on the Documentary Channel on January 30, 2011. Banksy’s EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP was named Outstanding Feature and Laura Poitras received the Directing prize for THE OATH. Lixin Fan’s LAST TRAIN HOME won three awards, including Cinematography and Production. Legendary filmmakers Al Maysles and Muffie Meyer accepted the Legacy Award on behalf of GREY GARDENS. For the first time, Cinema Eye presented a Nonfiction Short Film award (it went to THE POODLE TRAINER by Vance Malone) and the Heterodox Award, recognizing fiction films which imaginatively incorporate nonfiction strategies, content and/or modes of production. That award went to Matt Porterfield’s PUTTY HILL. Previous Cinema Eye winners James Marsh and Louie Psihoyos were among the presenters, along with Morgan Spurlock, They Might Be Giants’ John Flansburgh and actor/filmmaker Harry Shearer.
In 2012, the 5th edition of Cinema Eye took place on January 11, once again at the Museum of the Moving Image. Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz’ THE INTERRUPTERS received the top two awards, Outstanding Nonfiction Feature and Outstanding Direction. It was the first time in Cinema Eye history that one film had won both awards. Frederick Wiseman accepted the Legacy Award on behalf of his debut film, TITICUT FOLLIES, and Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky received the first ever Hell Yeah Prize for their PARADISE LOST series of films, which inspired a groundswell of public outrage over the case of the West Memphis Three. Presenters at the 5th annual event included Michael Moore, Alex Gibney, Peter Davis, Andrea Meditch, Josh Fox, Nanette Burstein and Robert Krulwich.
In 2012, Cinema Eye was led by a core team that included filmmakers Esther Robinson and AJ Schnack, who served as co-chairs of the event. Filmmaker Nathan Truesdell was the producer of Cinema Eye. Producer Andrea Meditch was Cinema Eye’s Board Chair. Sean Farnel, the former Director of Programming for the Hot Docs Film Festival, was the Chair of the Cinema Eye Nominations Committee. Cinema Eye Honoree Laura Poitras chaired the Cinema Eye Filmmaker Advisory Board.
Details for the 6th Annual Cinema Eye Honors will be announced later in 2012, with nominations scheduled to be announced in October 2012 and the award ceremony scheduled for January 2013.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do films become eligible for Cinema Eye?
Films become eligible by fulfilling one of four criteria:
1. Screening at three of the following international film festivals (listed chronologically): Sundance, Berlin, True/False, SXSW, Full Frame, Tribeca, Hot Docs, Cannes, Silverdocs, Los Angeles, Toronto, Sheffield and IDFA.
2. Screening at two of the above film festivals and winning a grand jury prize at one of them.
3. Screening at two of the above film festivals and reporting at least $5,000 in North American theatrical box office.
4. Reporting at least $20,000 in North American theatrical box office.
Who is responsible for confirming Cinema Eye eligibility?
While the Cinema Eye team makes every effort to track festival screenings and theatrical receipts, it’s the responsibility of the filmmaker to make sure that Cinema Eye is aware of a film’s eligibility. The deadline for Cinema Eye eligibility is usually in late September. If you have questions, you can email Cinema Eye.
Who nominates films for Cinema Eye?
Representatives from top film festivals showcasing nonfiction work are invited to participate by nominating five films in each category from the list of eligible films. For the 2012 Honors, the feature film nominations committee was chaired by Sean Farnel (Hot Docs) and included the following members: Meira Blaustein (Woodstock), Heather Croall (Sheffield), Joanne Feinberg (Ashland), Tine Fischer (CPH:DOX), Elena Fortes (Morelia/Ambulante), Ben Fowlie (Camden), Tom Hall (Sarasota/Newport), Doug Jones (Los Angeles), Amir Labaki (It’s All True), Grit Lemke (Dok Leipzig), Arthur Libehart (Planete Doc Review), Caroline Libresco (Sundance), Veton Nurkollari (Dokufest Kosovo), Janet Pierson (SXSW), Rachel Rosen (San Francisco), Charlotte Selb (RIDM), Sky Sitney (Silverdocs), Sadie Tillery (Full Frame), David Wilson (True/False) and Brit Withey (Denver).
The nonfiction short film nominations committee for 2012 was also chaired by Sean Farnel. Its members included Hussain Currimbhoy (Sheffield), Ben Fowlie (Camden), Ted Mott (Full Frame), Veton Nurkollari (Dokufest Kosovo), Sky Sitney (Silverdocs) and Kim Yutani (Sundance).
Once there are nominees, who votes for the actual awards?
More than 500 people comprise Cinema Eye’s voting membership and typically approximately 200 of those members cast their votes in a given year. Invitations to vote are sent to the following individuals:
1. The directors of each eligible feature film that particular year.
2. All current and previous Cinema Eye nominees, winners, presenters, jury members, committee and board members.
3. Top distributors, commissioners, grantors, curators, programmers, writers, critics, sales agents and publicists who specialize in the nonfiction field.
We encourage voters to view all of the nominated films in a given category before voting for a winner in a particular category. To help voters view films, we partner with the Hot Docs film festival to allow voters to watch films via their secure online viewing platform.
A few Cinema Eye categories are decided by juries. In 2012, these included the awards for Outstanding Nonfiction Short Film, Original Score, the Spotlight Award and the Heterodox Award.
Is the Cinema Eye leadership team involved in nominating films for the Honors?
For the 2012 awards, Sean Farnel, Chair of the Cinema Eye Nominations Committee, voted for nominations in his role as a festival programmer. 2012 Co-chairs Esther Robinson and AJ Schnack, Producer Nathan Truesdell, Filmmaker Advisory Board Chair Laura Poitras and Advisory Board Chair Andrea Meditch do not vote during the nominations process.
If you still have questions, please email Cinema Eye and we will do our best to answer your questions.