Planet in Focus Closing Night & Award Ceremony was an opportunity to celebrate the recipients of the Planet in Focus Film Festival Awards for Best Canadian Feature and Short, Best International Feature and Short as well as the Mark Haslam Award.

Scroll through to view the Award-Winning Documentaries from the 17th Annual Planet in Focus Film Festival!

Mark Haslam Award: Behemoth

Zhao Liang / China / France | 2015 | Documentary | 87 min | 14A

Award sponsored by Dynamix Solutions

A double prize-winner at the Venice Film Festival but banned from public exhibition in its native China, Behemoth is both a work of entrancing artistry and righteous anger. Maverick documentarian Zhao Liang (Petition) draws structural inspiration from Dante’s Divine Comedy, rendering the rapacious industrialization of Inner Mongolia as a nightmarish journey through the underworld, from hellish coal heaps to purgatory-like smelting plants to the resultant “paradise” of a gleaming ghost city. Evoking, too, the painterly infernos of Bosch, manufactured landscapes of Burtynsky, and kinetic vocational portraiture of Michael Glawogger, Behemoth is at once poetic and furiously political, offering a grimly sublime vision of a process that is equally indiscriminate in its harvesting of natural and human resources, viewing each merely as fuel to feed a monstrous economic machine.

Best International Short: The Rainmakers of Nganyi

Steve McDonald | South Africa | 2016 | Documentary Short | 8 min / G

Award sponsored by Mini Downtown

Thanks to their seemingly supernatural powers of perception, the Nganyi rainmakers of western Kenya were once rumored to be sorcerers. Today, meteorologists are drawing on their mystically derived forecasts to help farmers mitigate the effects of climate change.

Best International Feature: In Pursuit of Silence

Patrick Shen United States | 2015 | Documentary | 82 min | G

Award Sponsored by Spacing

If documentaries can often claim to inspire their audiences to see the world in a new light, works that compel viewers to hear the world differently are altogether rarer commodities. But the revelatory In Pursuit of Silence is just such a film. Patrick Shen’s immersive cinematic meditation ponders humanity’s relationship with silence, as well as the impact on our lives of its increasing absence. Taking inspiration from avant-garde composer John Cage and his ground-breaking silent composition 4’33”, In Pursuit of Silence invites viewers on a round-the-world journey to some of the planet’s quietest and loudest spaces, interweaving traditional interviews with soundless segments that invite thoughtful contemplation. With the World Health Organization identifying sound pollution as a second only to air pollution in its burden on the environment and public health, Shen here extends a welcome invitation to pause for a moment in order to hear your surroundings anew.

Best Canadian Short: Kokota: The Islet of Hope

Craig Norris / Tanzania/Canada | 2016 | Documentary Short | 29 min|  G

Award Sponsored by The Green Beaver Company

Despite the tiny size of their homeland, the challenges facing the 450 inhabitants of Kokota are global in scale. Plagued by widespread deforestation, severe water shortages, and a collapsing fishery, the Indian Ocean islet is a microcosm of the dangers wrought by climate change. But thanks to the efforts of an ecologist from the neighbouring island of Pemba, and their own abundant reserves of resilience and resolve, Kokotans are innovating, adapting, and flourishing. Kokota: Islet of Hope offers an inspirational lesson in the power of simple solutions.

Best Canadian Feature: Theater of Life

Peter Svatek |Canada | 2016 |NFB | Documentary | 94 min / 14A

Award Sponsored by Calstone Inc

World renowned culinary artist and humanist Massimo Bottura, whose restaurant Osteria Francescana has been voted number one in the world, decided to create a soup kitchen during Milan’s World Fair in 2015. Canadian director Peter Svatek documented the proceedings as sixty of the world’s best chefs joined him to cook for refugees and the homeless of Milan out of the waste food of the Expo.

Since that time, Chef Bottura has created Food For Soul with the intent of creating high quality soup kitchens around the world. Theater of Life documents Massimo, the brilliant kitchen Refettorio Ambrosiano and more. Director Peter Svatek says: “The Refettorio became a home. But we wanted more. To meet and get to know the people the Refettorio served. Who are they? What is their life like? What happened to them at the Refettorio? And through their eyes raise some of the important ethical questions. The film is, I hope, a warm, human, compassionate look at the Refettorio.”

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