Cinema Eye Honors 2019: Steve James Passes the Torch to Protégé Bing Liu

IndieWire | 1/11/2019 | Staff
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When legendary “Hoop Dreams” filmmaker Steve James retires from making award-winning documentaries, he could almost certainly fall back on a career in stand-up, or at least hit the circuit as an awards show host. James was in rare comedic form at the 12th Annual Cinema Eye Honors Awards, held Thursday night at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, his energy livening up a somewhat sober crowd. He missed no opportunity to mention his Oscar-nominated film from last year, “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” which lost out to Bryan Fogel’s similarly titled “Icarus.”

“‘Icarus’, ‘Abacus,’ ‘Icarus,’ ‘Abacus,’ and then they gave it to ‘Icarus,'” said James. “So I missed it by a few letters. And it really dawned on me as I was sitting there that most people thought they were voting for ‘Abacus’ when they voted for ‘Icarus.'”

Dad - Jokes - Night - James - Ways

Dad jokes aside, it was a winning night for James in more ways than one: not only was he awarded Best Nonfiction Film for Broadcast for “America to Me,” but he had the honor of watching his protégé Bing Liu take home three top awards for his debut feature, “Minding the Gap.” Liu and his film were singled out for Outstanding Direction, Outstanding Editing, and Outstanding Debut. Incidentally, Liu also worked as a story director on “America to Me,” and James urged him onstage to share in the series’ award.

“At the time I was working in the camera department, and Steve James emailed me out of the blue,” Liu shared humbly. “And I was like, ‘Cool!,’ but on the inside of my head I was like ‘Oh my god! Oh my god!’”

Praise - Ways - James - Community - Voices

The praise went both ways. When James lauded the documentary community’s exciting new voices, he made sure to single Liu out as an incredible young talent. “His first film premiered when...
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