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Attendance surges at Hot Docs

'Marwencol' picks up another prize

TORONTO — Hot Docs 2010 marked 11 days of record auds as it wrapped Sunday, with organizers estimating a 10% increase over 2009’s 122,000-plus attendance for the Toronto fest’s diverse 170-pic slate.

North America’s largest docu event opened April 29 with Thomas Balmes’ “Babies” and Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn’s “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage” (Alliance in Canada), about the veteran Toronto rock trio; the latter won Tribeca’s aud prize last week and is a frontrunner for Hot Docs’ equivalent, which will be announced today.

On Friday night Hot Docs handed out 10 juried awards. Israeli helmer Yael Hersonsky’s “A Film Unfinished” (Oscilloscope), which deconstructs an infamous unfinished Nazi propaganda film about the Warsaw Ghetto, won the international feature prize and C$10,000 ($9,650). In the same category, Laura Poitras’ “The Oath” (Zeitgeist), about a former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, won a special jury prize and $4,825.

“Marwencol” extended its winning streak — docu prizes at SXSW, Cleveland and Boston plus Cinema Guild pickup of U.S. rights last week — with L.A. helmer Jeff Malmberg nabbing the HBO Documentary Films Emerging Artist Award. The international jury (directors Gonzalo Arijon, Sturla Gunnarsson and Chris Hegedus) called the docu a “beautifully crafted film about redemption through art.”

Veteran Toronto director Shelley Saywell’s “In the Name of the Family,” about the honor killings of young girls in immigrant families, drew the Canadian feature nod and $14,475. The special jury prize in the same category and $9,650 went to Oscar-winning Vancouver helmer John Zaritsky’s “Leave Them Laughing,” about a comic with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

And U.K filmmaker Kim Longinotto (“Rough Aunties,” “Sisters in Law”) received the 2010 Hot Docs Outstanding Achievement Award. Fest presented a retro of her work.

The Toronto Documentary Forum (TDF), last week’s two-day international co-financing mart and centerpiece of the fest’s extensive industry programming, saw 30 projects pitched to a panel of 120 top commissioners (HBO, Sundance, PBS, NHK, ARTE/ZDF, CBC, etc.), distributors (IndiePix, E1, Magnolia) and funders plus 450 industry observers.

Continued belt-tightening at broadcasters — still the genre’s main support source — spells continued tough times for documakers worldwide; most TDF pitchers will still be chasing production funding post fest. But at least two project s– both reflecting new trends in documaking — left TDF with spending money.

Montreal-based EyeSteelFilm’s 3D project “The Fruit Hunters,” helmed by Yung Chang (“Up the Yangtze”), won the Canwest-Hot Docs Prize of $38,600 (voted on by non-Canuck attending funders). And Toronto-based Storyline Entertainment’s “The House That Herman Built,” directed by Angad Bhalla, won the inaugural NFB Digital Development Deal (open to all TDF projects) and $14,475 cash to further its ambitious cross-media endeavors.

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