‘Lac-Mégantic,’ About Canadian Rail Disaster, Takes Hot Docs’ Top Audience Award

Hot Docs has wrapped its 30th anniversary edition, handing out its top cash prize and announcing the audience top picks after an 11-day festival, which presented 214 films from 72 countries at 308 live screenings at venues across Toronto.

Philippe Falardeau’s “Lac-Mégantic—This Is Not an Accident” topped the overall audience poll to win the 2023 Hot Docs Audience Award. The four-part series from the Oscar-nominated director explores the causes of one of Canada’s worst rail disasters and what’s needed to prevent such accidents in the future.

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“Someone Lives Here,” by Zack Russell, won the Rogers Audience Awards for Best Canadian Documentary, which comes with Cdn. $50,000 cash, and also claimed the second-highest spot in the overall audience poll. The film also won the inaugural Bill Nemtin Award for Best Social Impact Documentary, a jury-chosen prize, at the main awards ceremony held Saturday.

“Someone Lives Here”
“Someone Lives Here”

“Someone” tells the story of Toronto carpenter Khaleel Seivwright, who quits his job to dedicate himself to building insulated “tiny shelters,” as he calls them, for unhoused people during the pandemic and faces opposition from local government.

Mila Teshaieva and Marcus Lenz’s “When Spring Came to Bucha,” following the recovery of a town near Kyiv after Russian troops withdraw, won the Audience Award for Mid-Length Documentary; the Audience Award for Short Documentary went to “Eco-Hack!,” by U.S. directors Josh Izenberg and Brett Marty, which follows conservation biologist Tim Shield’s efforts to protect desert tortoises from ravens.

“We are humbled by the emphatic reception we received from our famously curious Toronto audiences, whose energy, engagement, and enthusiasm are always a festival highlight for filmmakers, and who continue to inspire our mission to showcase outstanding, outspoken documentaries,” Hot Docs artistic director Shane Smith said.

“We are reminded once again of the power and impact of documentary—not only in reflecting our world, but also in building community, creating connection and challenging us to play our part in making this world a better place.”

Here is the 2023 Hot Docs Audience Top 20

  1. “Lac-Mégantic—This Is Not an Accident” (Dir: Philippe Falardeau, Prod: Annie Sirois, Canada)

  2. “Someone Lives Here” (Dir: Zack Russell, Prod: Matt King, Andrew Ferguson, Canada)

  3. “20 Days in Mariupol” (Dir: Mstyslav Chernov, Prod: Mstyslav Chernov, Michelle Mizner, Raney Aronson-Rath, Derl McCrudden, U.S.)

  4. “The American Gladiators Documentary” (Dir: Ben Berman, Kirk Johnson (co-director), Prod: Russell Wayne Groves, Danny Gabai, Andrew Freston, U.S.)

  5. “Silent House” (Dir: Farnaz Jurabchian, Mohammadreza Jurabchian, Prod: Elaheh Nobakht, Farnaz Jurabchian, Mohammadreza Jurabchian; Iran, France, Qatar, Canada, Philippines)

  6. “Allihopa: The Dalkurd Story (Dir: Kordo Doski, Prod: Kordo Doski, Lina Hanson, Jose Moreno Brooks, Paul Canterna, Canada, Iraq, U.S., Sweden)

  7. “Non-Aligned: Scenes from the Labudović Reels” (Dir: Mila Turajlić, Prod: Carine Chichkowsky, Mila Turajlić, Serbia, France, Croatia, Montenegro, Qatar)

  8. “The Stroll” (Dir: Kristen Lovell, Zackary Drucker, Prod: Matt Wolf, U.S.)

  9. “Angel Applicant” (Dir: Ken A. Meyer, Prod: Ken A. Meyer, Jason Roark, U.S.)

  10. “Who’s Afraid of Nathan Law?” (Dir: Joe Piscatella, Prod: Matthew Torne, Mark Rinehart, Joe Piscatella, U.S., Hong Kong, U.K.)

  11. “Against the Tide” (Dir: Sarvnik Kaur, Prod: Koval Bhatia, Sarvnik Kaur, India, France)

  12. “Seven Winters in Tehran” (Dir: Steffi Niederzoll, Prod: Melanie Andernach, Knut Lodsen, Germany, France)

  13. “Eco-Hack!” (Dir: Josh Izenberg, Brett Marty, Prod: Josh Izenberg, Brett Marty, U.S.)

  14. “Name Me Lawand” (Dir: Edward Lovelace, Prod: Fleur Nieddu, Sam Arnold, Beyan Taher, Neil Andrews, Marisa Clifford, U.K.)

  15. “We Will Not Fade Away” (Dir: Alisa Kovalenko, Prod: Valery Kalmykov, Stephane Siohan, Katarzyna Kuczynska, Tomasz Morawski, Oleksiy Kobelev, Ukraine, France, Poland)

  16. “The Deepest Breath” (Dir: Laura McGann, Prod: John Battsek, Sarah Thomson, Jamie D’Alton, Anne McLoughlin, U.K., Ireland)

  17. “Hong Kong Mixtape” (Dir: San San F. Young, Prod: Nikki Parrott, San San F. Young, U.K.)

  18. “El Equipo” (Dir: Bernardo Ruiz, Prod: Bernardo Ruiz, Gabriela Alcalde, Fabian Caballero, U.S.)

  19. “When Spring Came to Bucha” (Dir: Mila Teshaieva, Marcus Lenz, Prod: Marcus Lenz , Ukraine, Germany)

  20. “Invisible Beauty” (Dir: Bethann Hardison, Frédéric Tcheng, Prod: Lisa Cortés, Paul Dallas, U.S.)

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