The 2024 CDS Filmmaker Award Goes to “Sugarcane”

Film still from "Sugarcane," showing an Indigenous elderly man gazing pensively into the distance.
Film still from “Sugarcane,” directed by Julian Brave NoiseCat and Emily Kassie.

As part of the 2024 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award was presented to “Sugarcane,” directed by Julian Brave NoiseCat and Emily Kassie.

The CDS Filmmaker Award recognizes documentary films that combine originality and creativity with firsthand experience in examining central issues of contemporary life and culture. In keeping with the center’s mission, the award was created to honor and support documentary artists whose works are potential catalysts for education and change.

Representatives for CDS juried the prize: Ed Balleisen, John V. Brown, Lou Brown, Deborah Jakubs, Doug Jones, Mary Frances Luce, John Moses, Anne-Gaelle Saliot and Karin Shapiro.

Film Description

When unmarked graves are discovered near the grounds of a former residential school for Indigenous children near British Columbia’s Sugarcane reserve, the Williams Lake First Nation community launches an investigation to expose this painful history. For the remaining survivors, the torture and sexual abuse that took place at St. Joseph’s Mission school continues to reverberate in psychologically and emotionally devastating ways. Directors Julian Brave NoiseCat and Emily Kassie weave together different narratives centered on healing — the ongoing search to discover the truth and account for every child, a father’s personal journey to break intergenerational trauma, and a former chief’s quest for accountability from the highest levels of the Catholic Church. Now, as elders in their community, the survivors reclaim their community’s stolen humanity through the power of collective grief. Where the abusers at St. Joseph’s enacted colonial violence, Sugarcane is an emphatic refusal of the Indigenous spirit to be broken, buried and erased.

About Full Frame

A program of the Center for Documentary Studies, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is one of the world’s premiere showcases for nonfiction cinema. Renowned for its film curation, support for artists and vibrant atmosphere, Full Frame draws an international mix of attendees to Durham every spring. Over four days, the Academy Award®–qualifying festival screens films, hosts panels and parties, and fosters community among filmmakers, industry professionals and audience members.

See the full list of 2024 award winners.