‘A Mother Apart’ Producer Alison Duke to Receive Don Haig Award at Hot Docs

Hot Docs is to honor Canadian writer-producer-director Alison Duke with the Don Haig Award, which recognizes “creative vision and entrepreneurship,” as reflected in her work, as well as a track record of mentoring emerging Canadian filmmakers.

The award is presented to a Canadian independent producer with a feature-length film at the festival, with the recipient being selected by a jury of filmmakers.

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Duke is the producer of “A Mother Apart,” directed by Laurie Townshend, in which Jamaican American poet and LGBTQ+ activist Staceyann Chin embarks on an international journey to re-imagine the art of mothering—having been abandoned by her own mother as a young child.

Duke will be presented with a $5,000 cash prize, courtesy of the Don Haig Foundation.

Duke said: “When my partner, Ngardy Conteh George, and I joined forces to found Oya Media Group in 2018, we did so to bring an authentic perspective to screen-based platforms through socially relevant, life-changing stories that amplify Black experiences. We are deeply connected and inspired by our community, and we recognize that our stories must be told as we strive for the highest caliber of quality and professionalism.”

Duke’s first feature doc, “Raising Kane: A Rapumentary,” won the HBO Award for best documentary at the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York City.

Her subsequent feature documentaries included Andrew Nisker’s “Garbage: The Revolution Starts at Home,” Dany Chiasson’s “My Joan of Arc” and Thomas Allen’s “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photography and the Emergence of a People,” and helmed several social justice films across various genres, including stories about Canadian women living with HIV.

In 2017, she brought together five black female directors to direct documentaries for the Akua Benjamin Legacy Project. This five-part educational series told the story of Black Canadian social justice campaigners such as Dudley Laws, Charles Roach, Marlene Green, Gwen and Lenny Johnson, and Rosie Douglas.

Duke produced and co-wrote “Mr. Jane and Finch,” the CBC POV television doc directed by Conteh George about activist Winston LaRose, winning two 2020 Canadian Screen Awards – The Donald Brittain Award for best social-political documentary and best documentary writing. “Mr. Jane and Finch” inspired her to establish the OYA Media Group with Conteh George. The same year Duke directed “Cool Black North,” a two-hour television doc special for City TV, which went on to screen in over a dozen U.S. film festivals.

Duke made her dramatic debut with the short film “Promise Me,” which screened at over 30 festivals and earned numerous awards, including Golden Sheafs for direction and scripted for fiction at the 2021 Yorkton Film Festival. In 2021, Duke became the first Black woman to direct a Heritage Minute for Historica Canada on Chloe Cooley.

Duke exec produced Blue Ant Media’s three-part docu-series “Evil by Design: Surviving Nygard” for CBC Docs, which earned her a Canadian Screen Award nomination for best history documentary or series in 2023. Her doc series “Black Community Mixtapes,” which she produced and directed with Conteh George, has been nominated for several Canadian Screen Awards, including best writing and direction for Duke. She recently wrapped a doc series on music industry injustices for Idris Elba’s Green Door Pictures.

Duke is a co-producer for “A Mother Apart” with Conteh George and Justine Pilmott of the National Film Board of Canada. She directed and co-produced “Bam Bam: The Story of Sister Nancy” for CRAVE, which is set to have its world premiere at Tribeca in June.

In 2018, Duke kickstarted the OYA Emerging Filmmakers program, an initiative to accelerate the careers of Black youth who are graduates of post-secondary film, video and digital media programs in the Canadian entertainment industry under the OYA Black Arts Coalition non-profit banner.

The award will be presented at the Hot Docs Awards presentation on Friday.

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