'5 Broken Cameras’ Named Top Doc at Cinema Eye Honors

Low-budget film about Israeli-Palestinian conflict wins big prize at New York awards show for nonfiction filmmaking; "Detropia," "The Imposter" and "Bully" also honored

The ultra-low-budget documentary "5 Broken Cameras," which chronicles the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the point of view of a West Bank farmer who continually has his equipment broken by the Israeli army, was named the best nonfiction film of 2012 at the Cinema Eye Honors ceremony in New York.

5 Broken CamerasThe film, which is on the shortlist of 15 films in competition for the documentary Oscar, beat a few higher-profile nominees, including "Searching for Sugar Man," "The Imposter" and "Detropia."

It was co-directed by Emad Burnat, the Palestinian farmer who bought a camera to record the birth of his son, and Guy Davidi, an Israeli filmmaker to whom Burnat gave footage of the conflicts shot on that and four subsequent cameras. 

"Detropia" directors Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Directing, an honor that only once in Cinema Eye's six-year history has gone to the director of the picture winner. Dimitri Doganis was honored for the production of "The Imposter," while awards for cinematography and editing went to "Chasing Ice" and "How to Survive a Plague," respectively.

The Audience Choice Prize, the only award voted by the public, was won by Lee Hirsch's "Bully."

The Heterodox Award, given to "a narrative film that imaginately incorporates nonfictin strategies, content and/or modes of production," went to Jem Cohen for "Museum Hours."

Other awards: Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims won for their debut feature "Only the Young," Dial.81 won for the music to "Detropia," Oskar Gullstrand and Arvid Steen won for the graphic design or animation in "Searching for Sugar Man," and "Argentinian Lesson" won the Spotlight Award.

The award for nonfiction short went to "Good Bye Mandima."

The 1993 Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker documentary "The War Room," which chronicled Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign, was awarded the 2013 Legacy Award, an honor created to recognize classic docs that inspire current filmmakers.

The Cinema Eye Honors is one of the two major awards for nonfiction filmmaking. In December, "Searching for Sugar Man" won the International Documentary Association's IDA Award at a ceremony in Los Angeles.

Also read: 'Searching for Sugar Man' Rocks the IDA Awards

The Cinema Eye honors typically shy away from the more conventional, issue-oriented docs that make up the bulk of the Oscar shortlist. High-profile films like the shortlisted entries "The Invisible War," "The Gatekeepers" and "Mea Maxima Culpa," as well as "The Central Park Five" and "West of Memphis," did not receive any nominations.

In its five previous years, Cinema Eye twice gave its top award to the film that also won the Oscar that year, "Man on Wire" and "The Cove." Once the award was won by an Oscar nominee, "Exit Through the Gift Shop," and twice for films that were not in the running with the Academy, "Manda Bala" and "The Interrupters."

145 films qualified for this year's awards, 19 more than qualified for the Oscars.

Cinema Eye nominations are made by a committee of representatives from top film festivals. The final vote is open to directors of each eligible film, current and past Cinema Eye nominees, winners, presenters and jury, committee and board members, and invited distributors, grantors, curators, writers, sales agents, publicists and others who specialize in the nonfiction field.

Additional categories are decided by special juries. The Audience Choice Prize is open to all members of the public, who can vote online.

The ceremony took place at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York.

The winners:

Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking: "5 Broken Cameras," Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
Outstanding Achievement in Direction: "Detropia," Rachel Grady Heidi Ewing
Outstanding Achievement in Production: "The Imposter," Dimitri Doganis
Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography: "Chasing Ice," Jeff Orlowski
Outstanding Achievement in Editing: "How to Survive a Plague," T. Woody Richman, Tyler H. Walk
Audience Choice Prize: "Bully"
Outstanding Achievement in a Debut Feature Film: "Only the Young," Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims
Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Score: "Detropia," Dial.81
Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design or Animation: Oskar Gullstrand and Arvid Steen, "Searching for Sugar Man"
Spotlight Award: "Argentinian Lesson," Wojciech Sharon
Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Filmmaking: "Good Bye Mandima" ("Kwa Heri Mandima"), Robert-Jan Lacombe 
Heterodox Award: "Museum Hours," Jem Cohen
Legacy Award: "The War Room," D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus