I'm really honored to have been an attendee at last night's first ever Cinema Eye Honors awards show, held at the illustrious IFC Center. Congratulations to AJ Schnack, Thom Powers, and the entire IndiePix team for turning a good idea into a better reality. I think everyone was impressed with the legitimacy of the affair. It's something that is long overdue, and I feel confident that it will only continue to grow in stature as the years progress.
The yearbook/program alone is a really lovely tribute to 2007's sterling year in documentary film. But the awards show itself was breezy, pleasant, and somehow even inspiring. I say somehow because it felt like every single person who spoke preached the difficulties of surviving in this oft-ignored, uncelebrated genre of moviemaking. Esther Robinson was particularly eloquent in the director's roundtable portion of the evening (a very clever idea, I thought), in which she confessed to having weekly conversations with talented documentarians who are on the cusp of giving up and throwing in the towel. It seemed that everyone had their own harsh truth to impart, but rather than deflating me further, it made me excited to see that so much great work was born out of these seemingly insurmountable odds. It made me believe that our desire to make stuff will somehow continue to triumph, even as it seems to be getting harder and harder to do just that.
Schnack cut together a striking reel highlighting the most breathtaking visual moments from non-fiction films in 2007. Coupled with clips from the nominees for best film, as well as tributes to recently deceased filmmakers Tony Silver (the electrifying opening minutes of Style Wars) and St. Clair Bourne (a touching montage provided by Nonso Christian Ugbode), we were able to experience the visceral power of documentary filmmaking at its most alive and inspired. It's hard not to watch this footage and let all of those other worries and fears slip away.
Over at indieWIRE, Eugene Hernandez has a solid wrap-up that includes my second favorite quote of the night (Jason Kohn's "You feel like somebody else is winning and that person is no good"). As for my favorite quote of the night, that belongs to Mark Rabinowitz, who dropped this gorgeous doozy on me before the show had begun:
"Dude, doc chicks are hot."
The funniest part of the night was when we all spilled outside after the ceremony and IndiePix's Sally Plourde ushered a group of us into a stretch Hummer to take us to the after-party. Everyone seemed to be of the belief that stretch Hummers are a horrifically gaudy and environmentally unfriendly way to travel, but two seconds later we were all inside, drinking cans of Bud Light and justifying our behavior ("I mean, it was going there anyway;" "Well, this is only one automobile, it would've taken like six cabs to get us there otherwise;" etc.). Funnier than that was the poor panhandler who awaited us at our drop-off point. This guy must have thought a bunch of rich people were stepping onto the street, when in fact it was a bunch of broke documentary filmmakers who were still dazed by this unexpectedly royal treatment.
Oh, speaking of being broke, at the end of the night, as I was picking up my bag and jacket from the coat check, I thought I'd drop a quarter into the tip can. I figured it was better than nothing and that if everyone had done that the coat check person would have made some actual money. So what does the coat check woman do? She hears the clink of change, reaches into the can, and hands me back the quarter. I said, "What's up? You don't like quarters?" And she said, annoyed and cranky, "No coins." Being the idiot that I am, I dropped a dollar bill in the can and said, "You should take what you can get." I guess she didn't know who she was dealing with.
Anyway, congratulations to everyone for such a cool, fun night. I hope to be included in next year's festivities, and I also hope that the memories of last night will inspire me to keep pushing forward even as the world tries to suffocate my next project with its big fat ass.