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All About The Cinema Eye Awards for Documentaries

Unique Awards for Nonfiction Films and Filmmakers


All About The Cinema Eye Awards for Documentaries

Cinema Eye Awards Statuette

Cinema Eye Awards

Importance of the Cinema Eye Awards

Cinema Eye Awards represent a big step forward in the film industry's and the public's recognition of documentary film as art form that is as important, uniquely demanding, artistically creative and award-worthy as the narrative movies. Yes, other movie awards--the Oscars, Independent Spirit Awards, Gotham Awards and others--honor nonfiction filmmaking. But they each present only one category of award--best--to one feature length documentary and one documentary short.

In contrast, the Cinema Eye Awards present awards in ten specific categories--each of which recognizes one of the various disciplines and skills that go into making a great film, be it narrative or nonfiction. When Cinema Eye Awards voters look at the year's crop of documentaries, they consider and evaluate each of the elements--the cinematography, music and other skills--that define and establish a film's unique style and authenticity. Awards are bestowed for a film's outstanding achievements in each of the essential elements of filmmaking.

History of the Cinema Eye Awards

The Cinema Eye Awards, inaugurated in 2008, have been quickly embraced by the documentary film community and moviegoers.

The awards were established by two influential players in the documentary film field, because they objected to the Oscars' rules about eligibility for documentary films, and wanted to create an alternative to the restrictive Oscars and other awards.

New York-based Thom Powers is the documentaries programmer for the Toronto Film Festival and runs the Stranger Than Fiction Documentaries Screening Series at New York City's IFC Center. Los Angeles-based filmmaker AJ Schnack has made two nonfiction features--Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) (2003) and Kurt Cobain About A Son(2007), which was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in 2007--and writes the highly-regarded film blog All these wonderful things, covering innovative, ground-breaking developments in the nonfiction genre.

Cinema Eye Awards Eligibility

Films qualify by one of four criteria:

  • Playing at three of the following festivals: Sundance, True/False, SXSW, Full Frame, Hot Docs, Tribeca, Cannes, Silverdocs, Los Angeles, Toronto, Berlin and IDFA
  • Playing at two of the above festivals and winning an audience or jury prize at one of them
  • Playing at two of the above festivals and reporting at least $5,000 in North American box office receipts
  • Reporting at least $20,000 in North American box office receipts

Nominating Process

A selection committee comprised of highly respected documentary film programmers for prominent film festivals is invited to view eligible films, and choose shortlists for nominations. Nominated films are voted on by a wider circle of documentary filmmakers, programmers, distributors and writers.

The Cinema Eye Awards Winners and Nominees:

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