The visually spectacular Watermark, a fresh collaboration between filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky that explores one of the world's most important and endangered resources, has won the $100,000 top prize from the Toronto Film Critics Association.

The critics group unveiled the documentary as the latest winner of the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award at a gala in downtown Toronto Tuesday evening.

"After Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell, this is the second year in a row we've voted to give our top Canadian prize to a documentary," TFCA president Brian D. Johnson said in a statement.

"Canada pioneered the doc genre, and Watermark shows we're still reinventing it. Burtysky and Baichwal have fused  photography and the moving image to take the documentary literally where it's never been before. They've forged an epic vision that combines mysterious beauty with devastating fact."

The film marks world-renowned photographer Burtynsky's directorial debut and his second collaboration with veteran documentary-maker Baichwal. Earlier, the pair won kudos for her film Manufactured  Landscapes, a portrait of the industrial world as captured through Burtynsky's lens.

Watermark

In Watermark, filmmakers Edward Burtynsky and Jennifer Baichwal explore our relationship with water around the globe, including at China's massive Xiaolangdi Dam #1 in Henan Province. (Edward Burtynsky/Mongrel Media)

Watermark triumphed over two other contenders: the Louise Archambault drama Gabrielle, which was Canada's official submission for Oscar foreign-language film consideration, and The Dirties, a comedy-drama feature debut from Matt Johnson.

Range of winners celebrated

The evening event also paid tribute to previously announced winners in other categories, with host Jian Ghomeshi sharing messages from winners such as Joel and Ethan Coen, Alfonso Cuaron and Oscar Isaac.

Iconic Canadian filmmaker Norman Jewison, this year's winner of the Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award, chose up-and-coming director Jeff Barnaby to receive the prize ($50,000 in film services).

Other awards presented include:

  • Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist ($5,000): Matt Johnson, The Dirties.
  • Student Film Award ($5,000): Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg, Noah.
  • Allan King Documentary Award ($5,000): Joshua Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing.
  • Peter Wintonick Documentary Fund ($5,000): Mira Burt-Wintonick.

The TFCA Awards are presented annually in a host of categories. The group, established in 1997, comprises Toronto-based journalists and broadcasters who specialize in film criticism and commentary.