Despodov, 'Smiling,' 'FlicKeR' also win prizes

Geoffrey Smith’s “The English Surgeon” and Isabelle Lavigne and Stephane Thibault’s “Junior” nabbed the Hot Docs Festival’s top prizes in Toronto on Friday night, which saw 10 awards and C$30,000 ($29,600) presented.

“Surgeon,” aired by the BBC but attracting theatrical interest outside the U.K., picked up the Intl. Feature award. It follows Brit brain surgeon Henry Marsh on one of his regular visits to Kiev to aid a struggling colleague.

Best Canadian feature winner “Junior”– about young hockey players — was cited by the Canadian feature jury as “a truly authentic drama that penetrates the lives of small town icons.”

Bulgaria’s Boris Despodov picked up the new HBO Documentary Film Emerging Artist Award, given to a first-time director of a feature-length documentary in fest’s Intl. Spectrum program, for “Corridor #8,” about a misguided project in southeastern Europe. The special jury prize for international feature doc went to Tamar Yarom’s “To See if I’m Smiling” (Israel) about female Israeli soldiers.

Special jury prize for Canuck feature went to “FlicKeR,” Nik Sheehan’s pic on artist Brion Gysin and the influence of his dream machine.

“The Apology Line,” directed by Brit James Lees won honors for short documentary (up to 29 minutes), while best mid-length documentary (30-59 minutes) went to “It’s Always Late for Freedom,” which screened in the fest’s Spotlight on Iran program.

Veteran director and cinematographer Richard Leacock took the outstanding achievement award, while the Don Haig Award, which recognizes a Canadian director whose work bridges fiction and non-fiction genres, went to Yung Chang, director of Canuck box-office hit “Up the Yangtze.”

Toronto-based Elizabeth Lazebnik received the Lindalee Tracey Award given annually to a filmmaker who is informed by a sense of social justice and personal viewpoint.

More awards will be unveiled on Monday.

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