'Minding the Gap' Director Bing Liu Reveals He Sometimes "Wanted to Give Up" at Cinema Eye Honors

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From left: 'Minding the Gap's' Bing Liu, RaMell Ross, Sandi Tan and Robert Greene

The Cinema Eye honors celebrated the year's nonfiction films at a ceremony in New York on Thursday night.

Free SoloHale County This Morning, This Evening; and Minding the Gap were the big winners at the Cinema Eye Honors on Thursday night. Hale County received the award for outstanding achievement in nonfiction feature filmmaking, and Minding the Gap — a story of three young men who bond over skating and struggle as they enter adulthood — took home the awards for outstanding achievement in direction, editing and debut feature for helmer Bing Liu. 

“There were a lot of times I wanted to give up, and I’m sure a lot of you might have experienced this when you were first getting started. But you watch films and you hear it took them six years or seven years to make this and I think that helps you believe and want to keep going too," Liu said during the ceremony.

Free Solo took home prizes for outstanding achievement in production and cinematography, and it also won the Audience Choice award. Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, the National Geographic documentary chronicles climber Alex Honnold’s free solo climb of El Capitan in Yosemite.

“It pushed all of us to bring our best and reinforced a lot of ideas about trust and teamwork that have always been there, but not where the stakes were this high,” Chin told The Hollywood Reporter about how the film pushed him as an artist. “It was good to see what you’re capable of doing when the cards are down.”

“In this time when we are so divided and it feels like we can’t accomplish anything, Alex has shown how with years of hard work, a vision, determination, discipline, you can achieve your dreams,” Vasarhelyi added from the podium.

The ceremony was hosted by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Steve James, who also received the award for outstanding achievement in a nonfiction series for broadcast for America to Me on Starz. The series chronicles the shortcomings and prejudices in one American public school.

Another big winner from the night was Sandi Tan’s Shirkers. The writer and filmmaker’s personal documentary about her own journey through her past received honors for outstanding achievement in animation and score.

The Distant Barking of Dogs received the spotlight award, My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes received outstanding achievement in nonfiction short filmmaking, and Sonja Sohn’s HBO documentary Baltimore Rising received outstanding achievement in a nonfiction film for broadcast. The Legacy Award was given to the 1987 PBS documentary Eyes on the Prize about the civil rights movement. Director Callie Crossley and producer Jon Else accepted the award.

“This is a particular take of a particular group of people in Boston looking at a particular decade in the liberation struggle, the struggle for equity that began 400 years ago and is going to go on long after we’re gone. This struggle is not by any means finished,” Else said.

“I just want to make it clear that those of you who are fighting the good fight for us now," Else added. "There are lots of other new takes on this same history. This is a living history. This struggle is going on today. We’re counting on you to go back and retell the same story every generation, and we’re counting on your to chronicle the struggle as it unfolds going forward.”