American docmakers Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck beat out an international field of competitors tonight at Copenhagen non-fiction sprocket opera CPH:DOX, taking the fest’s top prize for their low-budget hybrid feature “God Bless the Child.”
Named best in show in the festival’s showcase DOX:Award section, the California-set film premiered at South By Southwest in March before enjoying a limited U.S. release in August; it made its Netflix debut the following month. It melds fictional staging and real-life observation, following the actions of five young siblings as they are seemingly left to fend for themselves when their mother abandons them without warning.
The DOX:Award jury — which included producer Katja Adomeit, international festival directors Elena Fortes and Miguel Velverde, SXSW programmer Jim Kolmar and sound designer Bernie Krause — praised “God Bless the Child” for its “otherworldly tone of extraordinary realism and a near-magical evocation of family dynamics.” Another U.S. doc, Anna Sandilands and Ewan McNicol’s “Uncertain,” received a Special Mention from the jury.
The festival’s F:ACT Award, for docs of a more investigative nature, was presented to Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi’s “Among the Believers.” An examination of Muslim extremist influence in Pakistan’s education system, the film was declared a “must-see” by the late Variety critic Ronnie Scheib in her review from April’s Tribeca fest. A Special Mention in the section went to Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe’s critical U.S. law enforcement study “(T)error.”
Other winners included Finnish duo Mika Taanila and Jussi Eerola’s “Return of the Atom,” which took top honors in the Nordic:DOX category, while the experimentally-inclined New:Visions Award was shared by Rosa Barba’s “Bending to Earth” and Ali Cherri’s “The Digger.” Meanwhile, the festival’s Politiken Audience Award — benefits of which include guaranteed Danish theatrical distribution — went to British filmmaker David Sington’s “The Fear of 13.”
Last year’s DOX:Award winner was Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Look of Silence,” currently a strong contender in the documentary Oscar race.