A film that tells the story of integrating three “gypsy” children into the mainstream school system in a small Eastern European town captured the Sterling award in the U.S. film category Saturday at the AFI-Discovery Silverdocs documentary film festival in Silver Spring, Maryland.
In "Our School," directors Mona Nicoara and Miruna Coca-Cozma follow three students in Romania over a period of four years, with an eye toward documenting barriers to providing access to education in a race-
based, hierarchical society, after the town, in 2006, receives funds in exchange for promising to integrate the schools.
Continuing the theme of education and youth, "The Bully Project," directed by Lee Hirsh, earned a special jury mention in the category. In the film, Hirsh follows students and their families in five states during the 2009-2010 school year documenting the effect of bullying on their lives.
A special jury mention also went to "When the Drum Is Beating." Directed by Whitney Dow, the film reveals Haiti's complex history and the resilience of its people through the stories of Septentrional, the country's most celebrated band.
"The Loving Story," put together with archival footage that had been in packed away in a closet in New York City for more than decades, received the WGA Documentary Screenplay Award. In the film, writers Nancy Buirski and Susie Ruth Powell tell the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, the unassuming couple behind the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia that in 1967 led to the overthrow of laws in several U.S. states that banned interracial marriage.
Culled from more than 4,500 hours of video from professional and amateur filmmakers, "Life in a Day," directed by Kevin MacDonald, received the festival’s cinematic vision award.
In its ninth year, the festival showcased more than 108 feature length documentaries and short films representing 52 countries out of the more than 2200 submissions it received.
Even as many of the films top winners have screened earlier this year at other festivals, Silverdocs, co-sponsored by the American Film Institute and Discovery Communications, has in nine years become a major film festival for independent documentary filmmakers.
The festival hosted 27,000 attendees, including more than 1,500 filmmakers, film and television executives and media professionals celebrating the art and business of documentary filmmaking.