The Doc’n Roll Jury Award for Documentary of the Year 2023 has gone to Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill, directed by Brian Lindstrom and Andy Brown, who hoped it would share “the power and beauty of Judee’s music and inspire and uplift her listeners in the way she dearly hoped it would”.

The award, announced by jury member Ellie Rose Davies on the closing night of Doc’n Roll’s 10th annual UK-wide film festival on 12 November, acknowledged the film’s powerful tribute to an immensely talented artist who was as influenced by Bach and Christian spirituality as the West Coast scene of her singer-songwriter contemporaries.

Doc’n Roll co-directors and founders Vanessa Lobon and Colm Forde said: “In another standout year for music documentaries, the jury had a very difficult job, but we were delighted that they recognised Brian and Andy’s major achievement – and passionate labour of love – with this beautifully constructed film.

“Judee Sill deserves to be acknowledged for the peerless talent she was, and Lost Angel wraps excellent storytelling in a superbly captivating setting of archive film and exquisite animation to make the case for her legacy. It’s exactly the kind of alternative music documentary that we founded Doc’n Roll ten years ago to champion and celebrate on the big screens of London and far beyond,” said Forde and Lobon.

Brown: ‘power and beauty’ of Sill’s music was an inspiration

Acknowledging the honour, co-director Andy Brown said: “Thanks so much to Colm, Vanessa and the great team at Doc’n Roll for this award. Judee’s performance of ‘The Kiss’ on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1973 has been many people’s entree into her music, so it’s somehow appropriate that she is honoured in this way in London, her musical home away from home.”

Brown added: “There are many people to thank for making this film possible, and If we were able to successfully represent her life and work, it’s largely due to Judee’s friends, colleagues, her family and a very committed group of creative people who made that happen. We were, of course, also very lucky to have Judee’s brilliant recordings as a starting point, as well as an aesthetic guide, for how to tell her story.

“In 1968, Judee was arrested and put in a Los Angeles county jail where she was forced to kick a heroin habit she had supported by prostitution and forging cheques. There she told herself that if she could kick drugs in prison she could do anything, and what she most desired was to become a writer of songs with healing power. Four years later, she was on the cover of Rolling Stone. Now, 50 years after her second and final album, we hope our film will help introduce more people to the power and beauty of Judee’s music and inspire and uplift her listeners in the way she dearly hoped it would,” concluded Brown.

Drawing on interviews with musical luminaries including Jackson Browne, Linda Rondstadt, David Crosby and Graham Nash and record industry titan David Geffen, the documentary is further enriched by frank, clear-eyed commentary by Sill herself, extracts from her journals and her drawings and paintings. Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill offers fresh insights into the life and work of an artist who recorded only two albums and died in 1979 aged just 35, but whose influence endures, as evidenced by commentary and performances by Weyes Blood and Fleet Foxes in the film.

Jury acclaim for Aaron Trinder’s hot-ticket doc Free Party

Free Party: A Folk History was also acknowledged by the festival jury, who bestowed honourable mention on director Aaron Trinder’s fascinating account of the birth of the UK's free party movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and its social, political and cultural impact then and now.

Trinder’s account takes in the unexpected coming-together of new age travellers and urban rave kids, via its accounts of the massive and infamous Castlemorton free party gathering in 1992 and the Tories’ 1994 Criminal Justice Act, via the recollections of those who were there and lived it, including members of Spiral Tribe, DiY, Circus Warp and Bedlam Sound Systems.

Following Free Party: A Folk History’s world premiere and multiple sellout screenings across the UK during the Doc’n Roll festival in November, further national and international screenings are in the works for 2024. Join the Doc’n Roll mailing list for updates.

Also shortlisted for the Doc’n Roll Jury Award for Documentary of the Year 2023 were the documentaries The Session Man: Nicky Hopkins; Even Hell Has Its Heroes: Earth; TLC Forever; and Miucha, The Voice of Bossa Nova.

Alfred, Deb, Ellie Rose, Jason, Jack and Lizzie: big thanks to our panel!

This year’s Doc’n Roll festival jury brought together the insights of photographer and film director Alfred George Bailey; 6 Music presenter and DJ Deb Grant; filmmaker and Goat Girl band member Ellie Rose Davies; film critic Jason Solomons; Jack Oliver, Head of Co-Production at Sky; and Lizzie Gillett, Head of Documentary at Misfits Entertainment.

View the list of winners of the Doc’n Roll Jury Award for Documentary of the Year from 2015 to 2023.