Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley was among the winners at the  New York Film Critics Circle Awards Monday night, where an outspoken critic sparked controversy by heckling filmmaker Steve McQueen.

The Toronto director's personal tale Stories We Tell, about her discovery that the man who raised her was not her biological father, was celebrated as best documentary/non-fiction film by the American critics group.


The documentary Stories We Tell follows Sarah Polley, seen at right with her director of cinematography, Iris Ng, tracking the story of her parentage. (Ken Woroner/National Film Board of Canada)

A year ago, the film won the $100,000 best Canadian film prize from the Toronto Film Critics Association.

American Hustle was a major winner at Monday's gala in New York. It was honoured as best picture, earned Eric Singer and David O. Russell kudos for their screenplay and actress Jennifer Lawrence the title of best supporting actress.

Other winners included:

  • Director: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave.
  • Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine.
  • Actor: Robert Redford, All Is Lost.
  • Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club.
  • Cinematographer: Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis.
  • Animated Film: The Wind Rises.
  • Foreign Film: Blue is the Warmest Color.
  • First Film: Fruitvale Station (directed by Ryan Coogler).
  • Special Award: Frederick Wiseman.

The celebratory evening took a somewhat unpleasant turn when a critic in attendance — Armond White of CityArts — apparently heckled McQueen as the British filmmaker took the stage to accept his award for best director.


British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen was heckled as he took the stage to accept his award in New York. ((Jacques Brinon/Associated Press))

"You're an embarrassing doorman and garbage man," White reportedly declared before adding several expletives. Reporters for industry publications were in earshot of the heckling.

The controversial critic, who has also allegedly heckled other actors and directors at previous NYFCC ceremonies, published a scathing review of McQueen's widely praised film in October.

White denied making the comments in a statement to industry publication The Hollywood Reporter.

"The press has accustomed itself to treating me as a bête noir — so much so that eavesdroppers at the event continually misrepresent my behaviour," he wrote.

Among some members of the critics group and as well as the wider press, "there is personal, petty interest in seeing me maligned," he claimed.

"Did I make sotto voce comments to entertain my five guests? Sure, but nothing intended for others to hear and none correctly 'reported.'"

According to media reports, White's outburst did not interrupt the proceedings and could not be heard from the front of the room where a visibly emotional McQueen took to the podium after a passionate introduction from music legend Harry Belafonte.