All bets are off: docos are the big winners at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.
3 May 2011 - 12:43 PM  UPDATED 16 Jan 2014 - 12:56 PM

This year's Audience Award was given to Give Up Tomorrow, the first feature from director Michael Collins and producer Marty Syjuco. Six years in the making, Give Up Tomorrow (pictured) documents a travesty in justice that saw seven young men arrested in September 1997, for the kidnap, murder and rape of two sisters in the island of Cebu, Philippines. Among the accused was a 19-year-old student, Paco Larrañaga, who was arrested in spite of evidence of his innocence.

All seven co-defendants were found guilty and sentenced to gaol, then the death penalty, before numerous international NGOs and the United Nations intervened on behalf of Larrañaga, who holds dual citizenship with Spain. (The U.N. filed a resolution in favour of Paco against the Philippines recommending his release.) Over the past 13 years, the case has become the highest profile in the history of the Philippines.

“We are hoping that things are about to shift a bit,” said the filmmakers after their final screening. “We've gotten a lot of attention because of the festival. We were lucky enough to have someone from the Spanish Embassy at one of the screenings, from the Philippines Embassy. We're really positive that something is going to happen soon.”

In second place for the audience award was the documentary Semper Fi: Always Faithful, yet another exceptional documentary in the slate of films programmed this year. Co-directed by Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon, the film follows the personal crusade of Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger, a career marine, whose daughter died of a rare leukaemia at nine years of age. Ensminger's quest for answers leads him to discover the biggest cover-up in water contamination in US.. history. Ensminger's daughter was one of many victims of toxic water at the military housing facility, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Semper Fi: Always Faithful is Ensminger's mission to raise awareness and seek justice for those affected.. Ensminger was at the Q and A following the screening, together with the directors. There he praised them for their commitment, likening the effects of the documentary to a sledgehammer in raising pubic awareness and forwarding the cause.

There are two competitive sections at the Tribeca Film Festival: World Narrative and World Documentary, with 12 narrative and 12 documentary features chosen from 21 countries by a panel of judges. Films that screen in these categories compete for cash prizes and are also rewarded with original artwork by Robert De Niro Sr. amongst others, as part of the prestigious award.

2011 World Documentary Competition

Best Documentary Feature Bombay Beach, directed by Alma Har'el (USA, Israel).
This debut film for Har'el is unlike anything else that screened at the festival. The film is an impressionistic portrait of the small community of Bombay Beach in California, on the Salton Sea. The documentary rejects any allegiance to formal genre conventions to create a singular and evocative essay with an emphasis on mood. Filmed over a period of five months, Har'el gained the trust of the community, whom she calls her creative collaborators and friends. At the film's final Tribeca Film Festival screening, Har'el confirmed that two audience members had offered to financially contribute to medical care for one of film's main cast members, a seven-year-old boy who suffers from bipolar disorder.

The newly created category: Best Editing in a Documentary Feature. The award went to Purcell Carson, Semper Fi: Always Faithful (USA). Best New Documentary Director was awarded to Pablo Croce for Like Water (USA), a behind-the-scenes view of Anderson Silva, the longest-reigning UFC Middleweight Champion and one of the greatest mixed martial arts fighters of all time. Michael Collins, director of Give Up Tomorrow (UK, USA) was also awarded a Special Jury Mention.

Here is a list of the rest of the awards:

2011 World Narrative Competition

The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature: She Monkeys (Apflickorna), directed by Lisa Aschan, written by Josefine Adolfsson and Lisa Aschan (Sweden).

Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film: Ramadhan “Shami” Bizimana as Yvan in Grey Matter (Matière Grise), directed and written by Kivu Ruhorahoza (Rwanda, Australia).

Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film: Carice van Houten as Ingrid Jonker in Black Butterflies, directed by Paula van der Oest, written by Greg Latter (Germany, Netherlands, South Africa).

Best Cinematography in a Narrative Feature Film: Luisa Tillinger, Artificial Paradises (Paraisos Artificiales), directed by Yulene Olaizola (Mexico).

Best Screenplay for a Narrative Feature Film: Jannicke Systad Jabobsen, Turn Me On, Goddammit (Få meg på, for faen) (Norway).

2011 Best New Narrative Director Competition

Best New Narrative Director: Park Jungbum, writer and director of Journals of Musan (Musan Il-gi) (South Korea).

Special Jury Mention: Kivu Ruhorahoza, writer and director of Grey Matter (Matière Grise).

Tribeca (Online) Film Festival Best Feature Film: Donor Unknown, directed and written by Jerry Rothwell (UK) as voted on by visitors to

Audience Award (third place): Carol Channing: Larger than Life, the story of legendary performer directed by Tony Award-winning producer, Dori Berinstein.