Hot Docs gives its audience award, and we give ours

Hot Docs unspooled its last film for the 2007 festival last night, and then closed up shop for another year. The attendance for this year's festival was huge - up 33% from last year! Now, the 68,000-strong audience have had their votes tallied and the results are in:

Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine's War/Dance has won the audience choice award for 2007. I've heard nothing but good things about the flick (hence the award, no doubt), which tells the story of three Ugandan children who find salvation in a national dance and music competition.

The audience top ten reads thus:

  1. WAR/DANCE (D: Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine; USA; 105 min)

  2. WE ARE TOGETHER (D: Paul Taylor; UK; 86 min)

  3. GARBAGE WARRIOR (D: Oliver Hodge; UK; 87 min)

  4. THE SUICIDE TOURIST (D: John Zaritsky; Canada; 90 min)

  5. FORBIDDEN LIE$ (D: Anna Broinowski; Australia; 107 min)

  6. NANKING (D: Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman; USA; 89 min)

  7. CITY IDOL (D: Arturo Perez Torres; Canada; 90 min)

  8. HEAR AND NOW (D: Irene Taylor Brodsky; USA; 84 min)

  9. CHICHESTER'S CHOICE (D: Simonee Chichester; Canada; 64 min)

  10. FOREVER (D: Heddy Honigmann; Netherlands; 95 min)

The last on that list, Forever, was my favourite of the year - Heddy Honigmann's stunning contemplation of the Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. I'm a sucker for any film that can trasncend its own genre, and Forever does more than most documentaries can or will, being about (in equal parts) death, art, and the nature of the human soul. Quiet and sensitive, Forever isn't just the best doc of the fest, but one of the best films of the year. (My original review is here.)

Johnny agrees:

"Of all the films I saw, Peruvian filmmaker Heddy Honigmann's beautiful and exquisite meditation on art, cinema, music, and literature resonated with me the longest and deepest, and has permanently settled in my mind as a bona fide masterpiece. Like Errol Morris' Gates of Heaven (without the eccentricity) and the works of Chris Marker, Forever has an almost divine omniscience about it; that in its 95 minute running time, holds greater depth and truth than films that are twice the length. I won't soon forget the scene in which two blind men watch Clouzot's Les Diaboliques while describing it out loud with more reverence and sensitivity than most people with sight -- perhaps one of the most endearing love letters to cinema since the days of Truffaut."

Ian, on the other hand, chose popular stalwart Let's All Hate Toronto as his number one:

"I really did enjoy Let's All Hate Toronto, although numerous friends and film critics have told me it wasn't a well put-together doc. I suppose they're right: it isn't really a documentary so much as a tongue-in-cheek road trip through one person's perception of the Canadian psyche. Still, I think any one who's ever felt the sting of Toronto-hatred or who's asked themselves why Canadians love to hate Toronto, this film has a few answers and a lot of laughs. I also really enjoyed Last Call at the Gladstone. It captured the joys and frustrations of the restoration of the now-hip hotel, but the film's best asset was its heart. I found myself holding back tears a few times because of the residents and staff the old Gladstone, who tell not just the story of the hotel, but also that of the down-and-out people who are too easy to ignore in big cities." (Ian's original review is here.)

A big thanks to everyone at Hot Docs for making this such a spectacular year, with a special nod to the tireless volunteers who, once again, have made the whole thing possible through their dedication and enthusiasm. Well done!

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