Each June, the American Film Institute convenes the Silverdocs Film Festival (they like to spell it in all caps, SILVERDOCS) in the Washington, DC suburbs. The festival, presented in partnership with the Discovery Channel, is actually a full-blown documentary conference, and it gives out sizable cash prizes to the winners of its awards. Cinematical missed the fest this year (though we did manage to notice their interesting choice to honor Spike Lee), but we figured we'd tell you about the results.

The grand prize for a US feature -- a handsome ten grand plus a lot of expensive film stock from Kodak -- went to Scott Hamilton Kennedy (2002's OT: Our Town) for The Garden. The movie told the story of the South Central Farm -- a 14-acre community garden that sprung up at the site of the 1992 LA Riots. Kennedy chronicles the farmers' battle with landlords, the city of Los Angeles, and the courts.

The equivalent grand prize for a "world" feature, given out for the first time, went to The English Surgeon, which told the story of a British doctor who spends several weeks every year performing brain surgeries in the Ukraine with crude tools, in an effort to save lives and pass on his knowledge to local surgeons. I remember that a similar documentary -- Flying on One Engine -- played SXSW this year but fell off my schedule at the last minute. A doc that actually did play SXSW, Throw Down Your Heart (about banjo player Bela Fleck and his journey through Africa), won Silverdocs' Music Documentary Award.

For a full list of winners, check out the festival's website. Silverdocs award winners have historically received at least some sort of US release -- in the past, Jesus Camp and Darwin's Nightmare took home prizes -- so look out for these two in the months to come.
CATEGORIES Awards, Cinematical