Hot Docs: 'The Walrus and the Whistleblower' Wins Top Audience Award

The Walrus and the Whistleblower - H Publicity 2020
Courtesy of Hot Docs

The first runner-up was Elizabeth St. Philip's '9/11 Kids,' followed by HBO's 'Welcome to Chechnya,' by director David France.

Nathalie Bibeau's The Walrus and the Whistleblower, about a former trainer at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, turned whistleblower, on Sunday picked up the top Audience Award at the Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival, which was forced online this year by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The first runner-up was Elizabeth St. Philip's 9/11 Kids, which follows 16 students now in their 20s and who were in the room with President George W. Bush when he was told about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And the second runner-up is David France's Welcome to Chechnya documentary for HBO about activists confronting Russian leader Ramzan Kadyrov's anti-gay purges.

This year's festival, from May 28 to June 6, streamed more than 140 films, including 69 virtual Q&As with the directors. The 2020 audience winners were unveiled during a virtual presentation ceremony Sunday night.

Also in the audience poll, the top mid-length documentary was Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story, by director Posy Dixon, and the top short documentary was director Aïcha Diop's Nancy's Workshop.

Hot Docs opted for a virtual market and streaming festival this year after the physical festival set to run April 30 to May 10 in Toronto was canceled as a precaution against the COVID-19 crisis.