‘Sheep’ is top dog at Hot Docs fest

Canuck doc fest draws more auds

TORONTO — Ben Hopkins’ “37 Uses for a Dead Sheep” took the top prize at the Hot Docs Canadian Intl. Documentary Festival in Toronto, which wrapped Sunday.

The British pic follows the once-nomadic Kirghiz tribe in Turkey.

Ten awards were handed out in a ceremony Friday, hosted by filmmaker-journalist Avi Lewis.

Also in the international feature-length category, a special jury prize went to Spanish pic “My Grandmother’s House” from Adan Aliaga, and Nikolaus Geyrhalter received an honorable mention for Austrian-German co-production “Our Daily Bread,” an exploration of the mechanization of food production.

On the home front, “Martyr Street,” Shelley Saywell’s tale of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict seen through the eyes of two girls in Hebron, took the top prize for Canuck feature-length, while “Mystic Ball,” about the involvement of first-time director Greg Hamilton in Myanmar’s national sport of chinlone, received a special jury prize.

Ibtisam Ma’arana’s “Badal” was the top doc in the short to midlength category, with honorable mention going to “Inshallah,” from Malene Choi Jensen.

The Don Haig Award, given to the filmmaker whose work bridges the documentary and nonfiction genres, went to Quebec filmmaker Guylaine Dionne (“Les Fantomes des trois Madeleine,” TV’s “Mary Shelley”), with a special jury prize to Alberta filmmaker Sean Garrity (“Lucid”).

Nods for top pitches went to Dominique Darmon for “Where Shall I Go” and Ramona Tersaud for “It’s a Different World.”

“Lion in the House,” an American film directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, was tapped as the audience fave in an announcement made Monday.

Pic, which runs for four hours, follows five families as they struggle to cope with children diagnosed with cancer. Pic is distributed by Films Transit in Montreal.

Top prize for a doc on international development, also announced Monday, awarded by the Canadian Intl. Development Agency, went to first-timer Jeremy Gans for “No Past to Speak of: A Story of Infant Rape in South Africa.”

Organizers called this Hot Docs’ most successful year ever. Aud attendance was up 25%, with some 50,000 people coming out to sample the 101-film slate.

Industry attendance also reached new highs, climbing to 1,800 from 1,700 a year ago.

“Each festival has its own personality,” said Michaelle McLean, director of the festival’s popular Toronto Documentary Forum. “We’re the place in North America that people come to for the financing of documentaries. We get a lot of television buyers from North America in particular.”

McLean’s picks for pitches that resonated most deeply at this year’s TDF were “Garbage Warrior” from Rachel Wexler out of the U.K.; from Canada, Josh Freed’s “My Messy Life;” and out of Denmark, Mette Heide’s “Saddam on Trial.”

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