Hot Docs Awards: PBS Frontline's 'For Sama' Takes Top Jury Prize

Waad al-Kateab

North America's largest documentary festival named Thai-American director Pailin Wedel's 'Hope Frozen' as the winner of the best international feature prize.

The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on Friday night handed its top jury prize to For Sama, a British film from Channel 4 and WGBH/Frontline about a young mother creating a video diary for her baby daughter during the brutal conflict in Syria.

The film, which won the best documentary award when debuting at SXSW, is directed by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts. "For its unflinching lens on the horrors of war, accompanied by a tender portrait of a young family born out of conflict, and the courageous community that surrounds them, the Special Jury Prize goes to For Sama," the Hot Docs jury said in a statement.

After a theatrical release, PBS' Frontline channel will broadcast For Sama, before an international premiere on Channel 4 later this year.

Hot Docs also gave its top audience award, voted on by cinema-goers at the festival, to Claudia Sparrow's Maxima, which had its world premiere in Toronto. The film follows Maxima Acuna, a generational farmer in Peru who challenges the American mining giant Newmont Mining after it lays claim to her land.

“The Hot Docs audience award means the world to us, it's the greatest validation that Maxima is not alone and that people care about her cause and that they are ready to stand by her side. Maxima's fight is far from over, but this recognition will help us push the film forward and hopefully bring more awareness to Maxima's story," director Sparrow said of the film's win in a statement.

Back on the jury front, Hot Docs gave its best international feature documentary award to Hope Frozen, from Thai-American director Pailin Wedel. The documentary, which bowed in Toronto, follows a grief-stricken Bangkok family and their unorthodox decision to preserve their deceased two-year-old daughter.

Elsewhere, the best Canadian feature documentary award went to the opening night film, Nipawistamasowin: We Will Stand Up, by director Tasha Hubbard. The documentary captures a family's grief and questioning of the Canadian legal system after the 2017 acquittal of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley for the fatal shooting death of a young Cree man, Colten Boushie.

And the DGC Special Jury Prize in the Canadian feature documentary category went to Matt Gallagher's Prey, which focuses on sex abuse in the Catholic Church, while the emerging Canadian filmmaker award went to Emily Gan for Cavebirds.

The emerging international filmmaker award was given to Nuno Escudeiro for The Valley, a film about immigrants trying to cross the French-Italian border on foot through treacherous mountain routes.