Michael Moore, Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady and others turn out for Cinema Eye Honors documentary awards

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady were two of the winners for nonfiction filmmaking at the Cinema Eye Honors awards ceremony.

Deneka Peniston
Esther Robinson, co-host of Cinema Eye Honors, hands Michael Moore award for Best Nonfiction Feature on behalf of the filmmakers of '5 Broken Cameras.'

On the eve of Academy Awards announcements, the documentary community was out in full force celebrating its own at the 6th Annual Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. And what a community it was! From notable presenters such as Michael Moore, to delighted winners like Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Detropia), the word “supportive” was thrown around with gusto throughout the evening.

This spirit of community was embodied by Esther Robinson, the evening’s charming hostess and Cinema Eye co-chair. Not only did Robinson show off a photo of her newly adopted baby to the entire assemblage (would that ever happen at the Oscars?), but she also gave quite a pep talk to the crowd, which included many notable filmmakers. “Everyone in this room is doing something spectacular,” Robinson remarked, “We get up every day and we make something from nothing. It has meaning, it’s important, and it changes the world.”

The love and encouragement continued, pouring out of the mouths of up-and-comers and veterans alike. New filmmaker Jason Tippet accepted his award for Only the Young by expressing that, “It feels nice to be accepted into a community like this, and meet people whose films you’re obsessed with.” Tippet was honored with co-director Elizabeth Mims for Outstanding Achievement in a Debut Feature Film.

Documentary film legend D A Pennebaker accepted the Legacy Award for his 1993 film The War Room, which took viewers behind the scenes of the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign. He responded to Tippet’s sentiment by sharing his feeling that, “It’s amazing to see a roomful of people who are like my good friends, [pioneering doc-makers] Albert Maysles and Ricky Leacock. People who want to pick up a camera and make a film.”

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady acknowledged that the documentary community provides more than just good feelings. Ewing and Grady’s film Detropia, the evening’s only nominee to receive two awards (Outstanding Direction and Outstanding Original Score), was a largely self-distributed effort. “We leaned on the community, and you delivered,” helping to raise over $70,000 on Kickstarter toward distribution and landing the film in over 100 cities.

One of the evening’s most emotional moments came during Michael Moore’s impassioned acceptance speech on behalf of 5 Broken Cameras filmmakers, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi. Their film about Israeli settlements encroaching upon Burnat’s Palestinian village was named Outstanding Feature. Moore, who befriended the filmmakers after 5 Broken Cameras screened at his Traverse City Film Festival, said of their work, “You walk into that film, and when you walk out you’re a different person.”

A complete list of Cinema Eye Honors winners can be found here.

Filmmaker Liz Nord is currently directing the documentary film Battle for Jerusalem and transmedia initiative Jerusalem Unfiltered.

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