A likely portent of next month’s Academy Award ceremony, The Look of Silence had a very good night at the 9th annual Cinema Eye Honors. The film picked up three top awards, including Outstanding Achievement in Production, Outstanding Achievement in Direction and Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking. Director Joshua Oppenheimer and producer Signe Byrge Sorensen spent much of their time thanking their subject, Adi Rukun, and the anonymous Indonesian crew that worked on the film in spite of the tremendous risks.
Accepting his directing award, Oppenheimer stressed the impact that it will have in Indonesia, where the attention will put The Look of Silence back on the front pages of the nation’s papers. He changed tack in his acceptance speech for the ceremony’s top prize, however, pivoting to the frustratingly underreported fact of American involvement in the Indonesian Genocide of 1965. Most that is known is anecdotal and unconfirmed, due to the continued refusal of the CIA to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests for still-classified documents. Yet Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has introduced a resolution calling for their release, and Oppenheimer appealed to the audience to sign the petition linked on the film’s website.
Beyond the crowning of the year’s most critically acclaimed documentary, however, the highlights of the event were those moments that won’t be repeated at the Oscars. Chris King won the editing award for his work on Amy, a well-deserved celebration of the film’s greatest virtue that also underlines how much more attention should be paid to documentary editing by the Academy and other awards bodies. The graphic design or animation category is another special one, honoring work that rarely gets the spotlight. This year’s prize went to Stefan Nadelman and Hisko Hulsin for Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.
Laurie Anderson, whose Heart of a Dog missed out on an Oscar nomination thi morning, won an award for the film’s music. The predominance of idiosyncratic films like hers, a beautiful meditation on love and loss elevated by her uniquely resonant voice, is what sets the Cinema Eye Honors apart and makes them so essential. Awards for smaller films like Toto and His Sisters (one of our favorites of Tribeca 2015) and Private Violence show a commitment to recognizing work from outside the major American metropolises. Two ties, in the cinematography and short film categories, underline the ceremony’s advocacy of nonfiction cinema as a whole.
Here’s a full list of the awarded films:
Best Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking
The Look of Silence, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and produced by Signe Byrge Sorensen
Joshua Oppenheimer, The Look of Silence
Chris King, Amy
Signe Byrge Sorensen, The Look of Silence
Matthew Heineman and Matt Porwoll, Cartel Land
Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk, Meru
Best Original Music Score
Laurie Anderson, Heart of a Dog
Best Graphic Design or Animation
Stefan Nadelman and Hisko Hulsin, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Best Debut Feature Film
The Wolfpack, directed by Crystal Moselle
Best Nonfiction Short
Buffalo Juggalos, directed by Scott Cummings
Hotel 22, directed by Elizabeth Lo
Toto and His Sisters, directed by Alexandre Nanau
Audience Choice Prize
Meru, directed by Jimmy Chin and E. Chai Vasarhelyi
Best Nonfiction Film for Television
Private Violence, directed and produced by Cynthia Hill for HBO Documentary Films; Senior Producer Nancy Abraham, Executive Producer Sheila Nevins
Heterodox Award (previously announced)
Taxi, directed by Jafar Panahi