Co-founded by filmmakers AJ Schnack and Esther Robinson, the annual Cinema Eye Honors strive to do for documentary film and filmmakers what the Oscars do not do, and that is to make sure that each of the talents that contribute to the artistic success of a nonfiction film get the proper degree of recognition for their part in the collaborative process of filmmaking.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestows an all-in-one Best Documentary for nonfiction films, one for a feature length documentary, the other for a documentary short. The Oscars for Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short are presented to the films' producers. There is no nod to the editor, composer, or graphic designer.
"It's great to see that a documentary filmmaker like Michael Moore can stand up on the stage at the Oscars and get the same award that's presented to Martin Scorsese or James Cameron, but the editors -- for example -- who work with Scorsese and Cameron are also recognized with their own awards. It's clear that that's not going to happen at the Oscars for the editors who work on documentary films. But editors are a vital part of the storytelling in film. So, it's important that they be recognized. The same is true for cinematographers, composers and graphic designers, too. We address that situation with the Cinema Eye Honors and our award categories," said AJ Schnack during our conversation at this year's Cinema Eye Honors filmmakers' reception.
The cause is noble. The categories defined by the Cinema Eye Honors really acknowledge that documentary filmmaking is as great, as complex and varied an art as that of making narrative movies. This may come as a surprise to movie viewers who don't know that much about documentaries and don't understand the ways in which documentaries are similar to narrative features and how they are different. Understanding leads to greater appreciation and more and support for the form.<>Hopefully, the Cinema Eye Honors will not only give filmmakers the full credit that they deserve, they can also get wider distribution for award winning films and they can attract interest in documentaries and get more people to watch them.
Actually, the Cinema Eye Honors are not entirely exclusive in their specific awards categories. Each of the movie makers' guilds has a documentaries category. For example, the American Cinema Editors (ACE) presents an award for Best Documentary Editing.
But whether there is duplication in the awards categories or not, the promotion of documentary film is a noble cause, and the Cinema Eye Honors continue to grow in stature every year. Having found what seems to be a permanent home at the Museum of the Moving Image, the annual Cinema Eye Honors ceremony, co-hpsted by Schnack and Robinson, will continue spreading the word about documentary films, and giving documentary filmmakers the opportunity to cheer each other on.
The 2013 Cinema Eye Honors Honorees
This year's Cinema Eye winners are:
- Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking: 5 Broken Cameras
- Outstanding Achievement in Direction: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Detropia
- Outstanding Achievement in Production: The Imposter
- Outsdanding Achievement in Cinematography: Chasing Ice
- Outstanding Achievement in Editing: How to Survive a Plague
- Audience Choice Prize: Bully
- Outstanding Achievement in Debut Feature Film: Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims, Only the Young
- Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Score:: Detropia
- Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design or Animation: Searching for Sugar Man
- Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Filmmaking: Good Bye Mandima (Kwa Heri Mandima)
- Spotlight Award: Argentinian Lesson
- Heterodox Award: Museum Hours
- Legacy Award:The War Room Directors Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker, and producers Wendy Ettinger and Frazer Pennebaker accepted the award on behalf of the film.
The 2013 Cinema Eye Honors were presented on January 9, 2013 at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, New York.
(DISCLOSURE: I was a member of the voting pool for the 2013 Cinema Eye Honors)