Following the close of the 14th annual Homer Documentary Film Festival, last month, Homer Theatre owner Jamie Sutton announced the winners of its annual Doc Fest awards. Based on anonymous voting from about 400 ballots, “Bending the Arc,” a documentary about innovative health care methods in developing nations, won the Forget Me Not Audience Favorite Award. Comments were encouraged from movie viewers and will be shared with the filmmakers. As one ballot submission said of “Being the Arc”: “So impressive! An important story showing once again how key leaders who have a vision and persistence can indeed bend the arc of the world towards justice and health!” Another ballot read, “Wow! I mean, WOW! This is what you go to the Doc Fest for. An inspiring, magnificent story, well told. I left with such a feeling of joy and inspiration.”
The Horned Puffin Grand Jury Award went to “Step,” a film about an all-girls’ charter school in Baltimore that uses a step-dancing team to encourage teamwork, determination and hard work and dedication as a way to transfer those skills to academic success. One viewer wrote of the film, “Uplifting, inspiring, fun, lovely. Shows what personal conviction and passion can do. This is a great way to get students to learn. I couldn’t help but cry.”
The Bald Eagle Best Director Award went to Matthew Heineman for “City Of Ghosts,” a film about citizen journalists from Raqqa, Syria, who continue to tell the story of the horror of ISIS after it took over their town and forced them to flee. One viewer said, “Brutal, haunting, inspiring! Such goodness in contrast to such evil.” Another wrote, “A modern day battle between the pen and the sword. So amazing to imagine how this movie could have been made.” Heineman was nominated for this movie at Sundance and also received the Grand Jury Award at the largest Doc Fest on the world, at Sheffield, England. He previously made Oscar-nominee “Cartel Land,” which was shown at the Homer Festival two years ago.
This year the festival instituted an award for the movie that had the most impact on and educational value for the young people of Homer. The Flex High School Award is granted by the over 30 students from Flex that came to every weekday 2 p.m. show, evaluated these qualities and the “film-maker techniques, style, timing, camera work.” Their choice was “City Of Ghosts.” After intense discussions of the movies they saw, they said that this was the movie that had the most effect on them and from which they learned the most.
The owners and staff of the Homer Theatre gave a big “Thank you” to all who attended and contributed their support and enthusiasm to what they call the “best doc fest north of Montreal” and Alaska’s premier documentary film festival. The 2018 and 15th annual festival opens on Sept. 20.
Results of audience voting on a 5-point scale:
1: Bending the Arc, 4.85
2: Inconvenient, 4.57
3: Score, 4.54
4: Dalai Lama, 4.53
5: City of Ghosts, 4.49
6: Step, 4.30
7: Letters from Baghdad, 4.03
8: Monterey Pop, 3.4
9: Sacred, 2.97