2023 RECIPIENT: EDMONTON-BASED PRODUCER BONNIE THOMPSON
Bonnie Thompson is a veteran Canadian media producer, producing independently with her company Dreaming Bird Productions, in collaboration with Canadian film/media makers and producers. She worked with the Northwest Studio of the National Film Board of Canada - producing from 2001 to 2018 - on documentary, animation, and interactive projects. Thompson has a commitment to productions that have strong social issue components, push boundaries in both form and content, and give voice to under-represented communities.
Her productions have been screened by national and international broadcasters, streamers, prestigious festivals around the world, and on the web, with many awards and nominations, including the feature documentary Radiant City
(D: Gary Burns and Jim Brown), winner of Best Feature Documentary at the 2008 Genie Awards; the animated short film Wild Life
, (D: Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis) nominated for a 2012 Academy Award; the ground-breaking interactive documentary Bear 71
(co-creators Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes), winner of a 2013 Webby Award, the 2012 FWD Site of the Year Award, and the 2012 CSA Award for Best Web Program; the feature documentary Angry Inuk
(D: Alethea Arnaquq-Baril), winner of the 2016 Hot Docs Audience Award, Best Documentary Award at ImagiNative, and TIFF People's Choice Award; the PBS NOVA Transplanting Hope
(D: Niobe Thompson), nominated for an Emmy; and nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up
(D: Tasha Hubbard), Opening Night film and winner of Best Canadian Documentary at Hot Docs 2019, and winner of the 2020 CSA Best Feature Length Documentary. Most importantly, Thompson's productions have had hundreds of community screenings across Canada. She is currently producing the feature documentaries Echo of Everything
(D: Cam Christiansen) and Insanity
(D: Wendy Hill Tout), as well as executive producing Singing Back the Buffalo
(D: Tasha Hubbard). She is a Board Member of the Alberta Media Producer's Industry Association, from which she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.
2022: Montreal-based producer Mila Aung-Thwin
Documentary filmmaker, producer, and activist Mila Aung-Thwin has produced more than 30 feature documentaries including the Emmy-winner Last Train Home
(2009), a powerful look at migrant workers in China; Independent Spirit Award nominee and Golden Horse Award Winner Up the Yangtze
(2008), an insightful look at the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in central China; International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam’s Audience Choice Prize Winner Rip: A Remix Manifesto
(2008), an exploration of copyright and content creation in the digital age; and Canadian Screen Award winner I Am the Blues
(2015), a musical journey through the swamps of the Louisiana Bayou.
Most recently, Mila produced and edited Midwives
(D: Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing), the story of two courageous midwives working in a makeshift clinic in Western Myanmar, which will have its Canadian premiere at the 2023 Hot Docs Festival. Mila also produced and edited Softie
(2020), which opened Hot Docs 2020, the story of a political activist running for office in a regional Kenyan election; directed, produced, and edited Let There Be Light
(2017), a film about mankind’s quest for fusion energy; and produced the short documentaries Speed of Thought
(2020) and The Vote
He has worked with broadcasters around the world, including National Geographic, BBC, ZDF/ARTE, NHK Japan, PBS, and more. He served for five years as President of RIDM - Montreal International Documentary Festival and has served on the juries of the Sundance Film Festival, the International Emmy Awards, and the New Zealand Screen Awards. He frequently mentors and gives documentary storytelling seminars to upcoming filmmakers, with recent workshops taking place in Guangzhou, China; Durban, South Africa; and Yangon, Myanmar.
2021: Toronto-based producer Lalita Krishna
Lalita Krishna, president of In Sync Media, has been producing and directing documentaries for over 20 years. Passionate about diversity and inclusion, Lalita’s films reflect her strong belief in empowering underrepresented voices. She is the writer and producer of Hot Docs official selection Bangla Surf Girls, and her recent features include co-producer on Fear of Dancing for CBC Gem, Documentary Channel, and producer of Untying the Knot, which premiered on CBC’s Documentary Channel in November 2019. Previous productions include Listen to Me, which won Best Feature Doc at Real World 2015; Lowdown Tracks DM, a digital website companion to Bishari Films’ feature documentary; and Semisweet: Life in Chocolate, an internationally acclaimed film about child labour in the chocolate trade, with a mobile app to track ethical chocolate. An early adopter of new technology, Lalita created Breakout, an interactive documentary series for CBC Kids, which also served as the launching pad for the careers of many young filmmakers who directed different episodes. Lalita was also the visionary behind the DOC Institute’s Breakthrough Lab, which has equipped hundreds of filmmakers with the skills to develop and pitch their films in the competitive marketplace.
Lalita’s films have won multiple awards, including the Reelworld – Best Canadian Feature Award (Listen to Me, 2015; Tiger, 2005), and the Canadian Screen Award for best music (Semisweet: Life in Chocolate, 2012). Her projects have also been nominated for the Japan Prize (Sweatin It, 2002; Jambo Kenya, 2005), the Chris Award for Best Social Documentary (Ryan’s Well, 2002; Chaos, Chords & Karma, 2004; Move Your World, 2005); and Audience Choice Awards at TIFF Kids (Move your World, 2006) and the Montreal South Asian Film Festival (Untying the Knot, 2019). Lalita is also the winner of the 2013 Crystal Award for mentorship given by WIFT(Women in Film and Television), the 2012 Trailblazer Award given by the Reel World Film Festival, and she is the recipient of the Dream Catcher Award given by the Hope and Dreams Festival NJ, for using her craft to better humanity. In 2018, Lalita was appointed co-chair of the Hot Docs board of directors.
2020: Montreal-based producer Bob Moore
As co-president and creative producer at EyeSteelFilm, Bob Moore has produced over 35 feature documentaries since 2008. Together with his talented partners and collaborators, he has been the recipient of over 100 international awards, including Emmys, Cinema Eyes, Golden Horses, Owls, Phoenixes, and a variety of other celebratory animal-themed prizes. Bob also oversees EyeSteelFilm’s dedicated theatrical distribution company and works with artists exploring meaningful interactive storytelling. He’s been the subject of a Producer’s Spotlight at the Cannes Marché du Film, is currently an advisor for the Sundance Creative Producing program, an international advisor to DMZ Docs in South Korea, a mentor for an RIDM/Hot Docs young Quebec Producer’s initiative.
2019: Toronto-based producer Peter Raymont
In 1979, after eight years making documentaries at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal, Raymont co-founded the independent production company Investigative Productions, now White Pine Pictures, in Toronto. He is one of the founders of The Documentary Organization of Canada, which led to the creation of Hot Docs and POV Magazine. Informed with a passion for human rights and social justice, Raymont’s films are often provocative investigations of “hidden worlds” in politics, the media, and big business. His work has received 52 international awards including 13 Geminis, Gold and Silver Hugos and The Sesterce d’Argent, among others. His documentary feature Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire received the 2007 Emmy Award for Best Documentary and the Sundance Audience Award.
Other features directed by Raymont include 2007’s A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman and 2009’s Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, both of which were shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Raymont’s producer credits include Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr (2016), which was nominated for an Emmy and honoured with the 2017 Donald Brittain Award for Best Social-Political Documentary; and All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception and the Spirit of I.F. Stone (2016), nominated for the 2018 News and Documentary Emmy, and winner of the DGC’s Allan King Award for Best Documentary.
Raymont has produced and directed several feature length documentaries exploring the lives of Canadian artists, such as West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson and Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris, and is currently in production on Season 2 of the CBC series In the Making, a documentary series featuring up-and-coming Canadian artists. Raymont also executive produced the popular TV drama series The Border and Cracked, both of which were broadcast worldwide.
2018: Montreal-based producer Ina Fichman
For twenty-five years, Ina Fichman has been producing award-winning documentary and fiction films for television and theatrical release, as well as digital projects, and has worked with first time and established directors in Canada and around the world. In recent years, her focus has been creative documentary, with some of her credits including Black Coffee, Undying Love, S&M: Short and Male, Malls R Us, as well as the interactive project and film 100% T-Shirt. In 2014, she completed production on the animated documentary feature The Wanted 18, which had its world premiere at TIFF, and the following year she completed the feature documentary Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt, which had its international premiere at IDFA and won the Best Documentary prize at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Intuitive Pictures has also recently produced the interactive website Space Advisor: A Guide to Space Tourism and the mobile app Gift-it-Forward. Upcoming productions include The Unmaking, the feature film Inside Lehmann Brothers and the VR project Once Upon A Sea.
Since beginning her career, Ina Fichman has had the opportunity to mentor many filmmakers from Canada and abroad. Many of her mentees have moved on to become accomplished directors, producers and executives. Fichman is one of the founders of Montreal Women in Film (FCTNM) and Women in Film and Television International (WIFTI). She has sat on numerous industry boards, including DOC and Hot Docs, and is currently on the boards of DOC Quebec and the Canadian Film and Media Production Association, a national organization that represents over 600 Canadian producers.
2017: Montreal-based producer Daniel Cross
Co-founder and president of EyeSteelFilm Daniel Cross had a big year in 2017. After winning the Don Haig Award, he received Best Feature Length Documentary at the Canadian Screen Awards for I Am the Blues. In December, he received the Rogers-DOC Luminary Award at the DOC Institute’s annual awards, which is presented to a leader in independent Canadian documenatry who works to secure the industry for future filmmakers. He is active in documentary organizations in Canada and the IDFA Academy. His works as producer and executive producer include Anote’s Ark (2018), nominated for a Grand Jury Award at Sundance 2018; Manic (2017); Let There Be Light (2017); and Tokyo Idols (2017).
Daniel is an associate professor at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University, and serves on the university’s Board of Governors and the Provost’s Circle of Distinction. He was recently appointed to research chair of Interactive Documentary Filmmaking. In conjunction with his research chair, he launched V1.0 of the 3D Web GL www.iamthebluesmovie.com, followed by the launch of the interactive documentary Turcot Interchange.
Homeless Nation, a non-profit internet endeavor that Cross founded in 2006, continues to be a Canadian national collective voice by and for Canada’s homeless population.
2016: Toronto-based producer Ed Barreveld
2016 was a busy year for Ed Barreveld of Storyline Entertainment. Shadow Girl, executive produced by Ed and a treaty co-production with Chile, premiered at DocsBarcelona. League of Exotique Dancers, produced by Barreveld, had it world premiere as Hot Docs opening night film and won Best Made in Canada Feature at Northwestfest. His documentary short Frame 394 premiered at Hot Docs and was later nominated for Best Short Documentary at the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards. And Dolphin Man, produced by Ed and a treaty co-production with France and Greece, pitched at the Hot Docs Forum and was released in 2017.
As part of the Don Haig Award, Ed was able to name an emerging female documentary filmmaker to receive a cash prize, and professional development opportunities to further her career path. He named Toronto-based filmmaker Shasha Nakhai as recipient of this prize, and later served as executive producer for Shasha’s first feature documentary, Take Light (2017).
2015: Toronto-based producer Anne Pick
Anne Pick, veteran producer, director and story editor with Real to Real Productions, has created documentaries and factual series for over 20 years. Her recent producing credits include A Different Drummer (2014) and No Limits (2016). In 2014, Gambling on Extinction (2014) won an IFF EkotopFilm award, a German Wildlife Film Award, a NaturVision award and the Audience Appeal Award at the Moab International Film Festival. Additional awards include a Canadian Gemini, Australian AFI and Dendy Award for Australian Short Films.
Anne is a strong advocate for the documentary community in Canada, and has functioned as co-vice chair of DOC Canada and was a founding board member and former co-chair of Hot Docs.
2014: Toronto-based producer Michael McNamara
Since receiving the Don Haig Award, Markham Street Films owner Michael McNamara has added to his considerable output as director, producer and writer. His work includes television series The Nature of Things (2012-14); short films Incident at Elysian Fields (2013) and Bird (2017); television special Shatner’s World…We Just Live in It… (2013); comedy feature Big News From Grand Rock (2014); and documentaries Ice, Sweat and Tears (2013), David & Me (2014), The Trick With the Gun (2015), Celtic Soul (2016), and Once an Immigrant (2017).
His feature documentary ADHD: Not Just for Kids (2017) was inspired by a friend’s experiences with the challenges of being an adult with ADHD. During the research, Michael learned that he too had ADHD, a diagnosis that informed every aspect of his work, from how he framed interview questions to understanding the stigma attached to the disorder.
2013: Winnipeg-based producer Merit Jensen Carr
Merit Jensen Carr was the first recipient of the Don Haig Award when it transitioned to celebrating an established filmmaker with a body of work and experience in mentoring emerging talent.
As founder of Winnipeg-based Merit Motion Pictures, Merit has excutive produced or produced all works created by the company. Her creative vision and entrepreneurship was also reconized in 2014 when she was awarded with a lifetime achievement award at the Winnipeg’s Women Entrepreneur of The Year Awards, acknowledging the growth and success of her company.
Her credits include television series Doc Zone (2009-2015), Nature (2013), The Nature of Things (1999-2014) and Polar Bear Town (2015); documentaries Special Ed (2013), The Curious Case of Vitamins and Me (2015); Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees (2016) and Beyond the Spectrum: A Family’s Year Confronting Autism (2017). Her episode “Smarty Plants” for The Nature of Things was nominated for the 2013 Canadian Screen Award for Best Science or Nature Documentary Program or Series.
Past Recipients (Emerging Filmmakers)
2012: Filmmaker Charles Officer, Jury Special Merit Award
Officerʼs debut short film When Morning Comes
premiered at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival to wide acclaim. In 2001, he completed the Alliance Atlantis Directors Lab at the Canadian Film Centre, where his second film, Short Hymn—Silent War
received a Special Jury Citation at TIFF 2002 and a Genie nomination in 2004. In 2005, Officer developed and directed the television pilot Hotel Babylon
. Then followed with Hotel Vladivostok
and Everything is Love & Fear
. In 2007, episodes of the hit Global television series, Da Kink In My Hair
found Officer honing his director chops.
His screenplay, Nurse. Fighter. Boy
was selected to participate at the 57th Berlinale Film Festival. The lyrical love story about a young boyʼs faith in magic premiered at TIFF ʻ08 and was theatrically released in 2009 by Mongrel Media and US distributor, Cinetic Media.
Officer finished his feature documentary, Mighty Jerome,
in 2010– a film about AfricanCanadian sprinter, Harry Jerome - Canada's most promising track and field star, on his way to the Olympics in Rome. Officer won the Emmy at the Northwest Regional Emmy Awards for his picture.
2012: Director Mia Donovan, Inside Lara Roxx
Mia Donovan’s documentary films have had worldwide exposure, at film festivals, on broadcast television, theatrically, and on Netflix and have won many awards. Inside Lara Roxx (2011) was nominated for a 2012 Jutra Award for Best Documentary and Best Feature at the 2012 Boston Underground Film Festival, won Best Documentary on Society and Humanity at the 2011 Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival, and was runner-up for Best Feature at the 2012 Boston Underground Film Festival.
Her documentary Deprogrammed (2015), which she wrote and directed, inspired her first interactive project of the same name, which won the 2016 IDFA DocLab Award for Immersive Non-Fiction, as well as a Spirit Award for Documentary at the 2016 Brooklyn Film Festival. In 2015 it was nominated for a F:ACT Award at CPH:DOX. In April 2017, she announced that Deprogrammed had a WebVR experience to complement the documentary feature.
More recently, Mia is collaborating with the creative digital studio Dpt to make her first virtual reality documentary experience. She is working with EyeSteelFilm on her third feature documentary, her second virtual reality experience and her first documentary short film.
2011: Director Rama Rau, The Market
After receiving the Don Haig Award, Rama Rau’s The Market (2010) was nominated for two 2013 Canadian Screen Awards: the Donald Brittain Award for Best Social Political Documentary and Best Original Music in a Documentary. It also won Best Director awards at the Golden Panada and the Stuttgart Film Festivals in 2012.
Additional works include short film Aftermath (2011), which played at the Cannes Short Film Corner; television miniseries My Big Fat Punjabi Wedding (2013); cyberbullying doc No Place to Hide (2015), which won an Audience Award at Hot Docs in 2015; burlesque doc League of Exotique Dancers, which opened Hot Docs 2016 and won Best Canadian Film at NorthwestFest; and documentary The Daughter Tree (2017).
All her films, fiction or non-fiction, feature strong female roles and she is a frequent speaker on gender and diversity. She is active in the Documentary Organization of Canada.
2010: Co-directors Philip Lyall and Nimisha Mukerji, 65_Redroses
Philip Lyall and Nimisha Mukerji won the Don Haig Award jointly following their collaboration on their debut feature documentary 65_RedRoses, which was chosen for Oprah Winfreyʼs Documentary Club on OWN, acquired by Netflix and Hulu, and won several major awards including the 2010 Banff World Television Award for Best Canadian Program, a 2010 Gemini Award nomination, Best Emerging Filmmaker and Audience Choice Award at the Mendocino Film Festival, and an Audience Choice Award at the Omaha International Film Festival.
Since, Philip has been mentored by Academy Award documentary director John Zaritsky at UBCʼs Film Production Program. He has writing and story credits on SLICE reality show Party Mamas (2011) and Real Housewives of Vancouver (2011-3), as well as credits on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (2016-7), The Emergency Room (2013-5), Game of Homes (2014/5), The Quest (2013/4), The Mistress (2012) and The Gayest Show Ever (2010). He has also appeared as an actor in short Seven Sins: Greed, part of the Seven Sins film project.
Nimisha Mukerji has worked as episode director series including Border Security: Canada’s Front Line (2012/3), Dino Dana (2017), Payday (2016) and Mech-X4 (2018). Her documentaries include Blood Relative (2012), nominated for the Donald Brittain Award for the Best Social/Political Documentary, winner of a Leo Award, and also voted most popular Canadian documentary at the Vancouver Film Festival; and Tempest Storm (2016), official selection at Hot Docs. Her feature Jacinta was an official selection for Tribeca’s 2017 Story Lab.
Her shorts include Voodoo (2010), The Coconut (2011), The Arrival Hour (2012), In the Deep (2013), Life on Jupiter (2015), Invisible Man (2015), Awake and Dreaming (2016), We Were Hunters (2016) and Eat Your Heart Out (2017). Beauty Mark (2013), which Nimisha co-wrote, won a 2012 Golden Sheaf at the Yorkton Festival, a Silver Gryphon, and a Leo Award.
Her work has received recognition by TIFF’s Emerging Filmmaker’s Competition (Audience Award 2012) and TIFFxInstagram’s Competition (official selection). She received the Women In View 2X More Mentorship Award in 2016.
2009: Director Tracey Deer, Special Jury Prize Winner
A dedicated Mohawk filmmaker and series director, Tracey Deer was chosen for her body of work which included her 2008 critical documentary, Club Native
, on Mohawk identity and tribal blood laws. This film a won her two Gemini awards. Club puts the energy of fedup young Mohawk women up against snobby attitudes and outright racism after more than 100 years of sexist government policy.
Deer made Mohawk Girls
in 2005, where she looked at three teenage girls from her reserve who faced the same decision she did at their age: to move away and risk losing their rights as Mohawks. In 2009, Deer collaborated with Montreal writer Cynthia Knight on Crossing the Line
, a short for the Vancouver Olympics. They also created a dramedy TV pilot Escape Hatch
, about four young Mohawk women at Kahnawake, looking for relationships. She calls it "a native take on Sex and the City.” It became a series for APTN. She produced, wrote and co-directed another six-part documentary series, Working it Out Together
with Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller to empower six Mohawk people to reclaim their vitality through health, wellness and fitness.
2009: Filmmaker Brett Gaylor
Brett Gaylor’s documentary RiP!:A Remix Manifesto (2008) received many accolades including the Cinema Eye Honors Awar, a Genie nomination and the New Media Festival Award.
Brett conceived and directed Do Not Track (2015), and was show runner and associate producer of this international coproduction, a seven-part online interactive doc series about internet privacy. Do Not Track was presented as an interactive installation in Tribeca Film Festival’s Storyscapes program, the Sheffield Doc/Fest, RIDM and IDFA. The project won an International Documentary Association Award for Best Series, a Prix Gémeaux for Best Interactive Series, and a 2016 Peabody Award, and was nominated for the Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Program or Series (Non-Fiction).
Since 2013, Brett has been involved with Mozilla in various capacities, most recently commissioning editor, advocacy media.
2008: Director Yung Chang, Up the Yangtze
In addition to the Don Haig Award, Yung Chang received the Yolande and Pierre Perrault Award, and the Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award in 2008. His film Up the Yangtze (2017) won a Genie Award for Best Documentary, Best Documentary at the Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards, and Best Feature Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
Yung’s feature docs China Heavyweight (2012) and The Fruit Hunters (2012) have received wide international exposure, and his credits include documentary shorts Ali Shan (2009), 42 One Dream Rush (2010), and Gatekeeper (2016), which won the Documentary Award and the Jury Prize at the Los Angeles Film Festival. He was also a segment producer for the documentary 11/8/16 (2017).
In 2013, Yung was invited to become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 2015, he took part in the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab for Eggplant, his first narrative feature, and he is currently completing its screenplay.
2007: Director Hubert Davis, Hardwood
Hubert Davis’s work bridges the documentary and fiction worlds, and includes short films Stronger Than Love (2007), Move Your Mind (2010), The Portrait (2012), Play (2014) and Investors Group: Memories (2015). He produced and directed feature documentary Invisibile City (2009), which received the award for Best Canadian Feature Documentary at Hot Docs. He also directed and wrote The National Parks Project (2011), Darkness and Hope (2012), and Giants of Africa (2016), which premiered at TIFF in 2016.
Hubert has directed award-winning commercials, including HP’s Rivolta which won a Cannes Film Lion in 2017.
2006: Director Sean Garrity, Special Jury Prize Winner
Sean Garrity began a career as a filmmaker and musician in 1997. He created awardwinning music videos for Winnipeg artists including The Wyrd Sisters, Mark Reeves and Richard Moody. He made documentaries, and short films, including Middle
, which won awards in Toronto and Vancouver, and How Much for a Half Kilo?
– winner of the Best Film award in Calgary. All nine of his shorts have sold around the world.
His first feature film, INerTia
, won Best First Feature at the 2001 Toronto International Film Festival, and Best Director award at the 2001 FilmCan Festival. Lucid
, -2005 -his second feature, was an official selection at TIFF (2005) in Contemporary World Cinema. His third feature, Zooey & Adam
- 2010 premiered at The Atlantic International Film Festival and won the CanWest award for Best Canadian Feature Film.
Sean first studied film production and theory at Toronto's York University and continued his studies at the Instituto de Arte Cinematografico de Avellaneda in Buenos Aires.
2006: Director Guylaine Dionne
Quebec filmmaker Guylaine Dionne had several award-winning credits to her name as a rising filmmaker in both fiction and documentary when she received the Don Haig Award.
Since then she’s produced and directed Serveuses Demandées (2009), described as a complex and compassionate drama, and wrote and directed short film Les mercredis de Rose (2011)
Guylaine is an associate professor at Concordia University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and is head of the MFA Film production program at the Mel Hopppenheim School of Cinema. She has researched the impact of new technologies on new narrative forms of cinema, and since 2011 she has been working with her colleague at Concordia, Dr. Rosanna Maule, on the project Women’s Cinema: A Virtual Archive.